Two Washington men whose snowmobiles became stranded in a snowbound canyon in eastern Baker County on Friday night were found safe on Saturday morning after a search that involved more than a dozen volunteers.
Scott Weaver, 53, of Richland, Washington, and Michael Webb, 38, of Pasco, were “exhausted” but otherwise fine, Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash said.
The incident started Friday night when Weaver’s son, Cameron, arrived in Halfway intended to join his father and Webb for a weekend of snowmobile riding, Ash said.
When Cameron Weaver got to Halfway he sent a text message to his father, who responded.
Although Scott Weaver texted that he and Webb were safe, he also wrote that they needed help, Ash said.
Around 9:49 p.m. Ash called Taylor Kerns, an experienced Baker City snowmobiler, who in turn called another veteran rider, Clay McCarty.
They traveled to Halfway along with Ash and Undersheriff Jef Van Arsdall.
Kerns and McCarty rode their snowmobiles to the Trail Creek area, near Schneider Meadows, based on GPS coordinates the stuck snowmobilers had texted, Ash said.
Kerns and McCarty didn’t find the pair, and they returned to a staging area about 4 a.m. Saturday.
After sleeping for about two hours the pair rode back into the mountains. Meanwhile Ash had talked with the Pine Valley Snowmobile club and arranged for about 10 other volunteers to participate in the rescue effort.
Kerns and McCarty were able to contact Scott Weaver and Webb by way of a two-way radio.
The searchers found the pair in a canyon that local snowmobilers avoid because it’s difficult to get out of in deep snow.
An automated snow-measuring station nearby recorded a snow depth of 117 inches.
Scott Weaver said he has ridden snowmobiles in the area several times before.
He and Webb had been riding near Mehlhorn Reservoir when the snow started to get “a little soggy” around 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Weaver said they started riding back toward Halfway but they couldn’t find their tracks from earlier in the day.
Dusk fell and the pair could only ride very slowly, stopping every 100 feet or so to check the terrain, he said.
They came to a dropoff that Weaver estimated was 10 to 15 feet high — possibly a waterfall on Trail Creek.
He said he and Webb decided that, because they were already tired, trying to either negotiate the dropoff or turn their machines around in the deep snow would worsen rather than improve their situation.
“We were still in good shape and we decided to stay where we were,” Weaver said.
The pair hunkered beneath a tree and cut pine boughs so they didn’t have to sit on the snow.
It was not a pleasant night, Weaver said, although the pair did have food and water.
“We got up every hour or so to warm our fingers and toes (from the snowmobiles’ exhaust),” he said. “It was no fun, but we didn’t get any worse.”
The temperature at the snow-measuring station dipped to 5 degrees early Saturday.
Weaver said he has sporadic cell service if he stood next to his snowmobile and waved the phone around. Trouble is, the phone shut down in the frigid weather.
He held it near the muffler of the snowmobile, while it was running, to revive the phone.
Weaver said he and Webb were ecstatic when the rescuers arrived.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Those guys are good. I was pretty impressed with how they arranged things. They know how to handle situations like that."