When Andrew MacLeod and TJ Dumonceaux set out last Saturday morning to explore Boulder Mountain near Revelstoke, they had no idea they would be close to losing their lives.
“It feels really good to be alive,” MacLeod said.
The young men, both 23, were riding around on rented snowmobiles when they noticed they were going through gas fairly fast. They decided to go back down the mountain, but the pair made a wrong turn and ended up in a gully.
“We went down this one chute into a valley with a river in it and we just kept getting stuck over and over again,” Macleod said.
They tried to dig themselves out but to no avail.
As darkness started to fall, they became increasingly concerned.
“Your panic starts to set in because you see the sun go down,” Dumonceaux said.
They realized they better build a shelter and hunker down for the night.
“I remember I was laying down on the snow our snow pants were almost freezing to the snow,” MacLeod said. “We thought to ourselves, we looked at ourselves, we said we need to insulate this a little bit more so we started sawing off branches.”
They set their phone alarm to go off every 15 minutes to prevent them from falling asleep and getting hypothermia.
“You can just fall asleep and die in your sleep of hypothermia and we both kind of thought about that,” Dumonceaux said. “We cuddled together all night to stay warm honestly, like stacked on top of each other.”
The next morning, they woke up to less than ideal conditions.
“It’s absolute white-out conditions, there is a huge blanket of fog and you are just in this huge mountain range” MacLeod said. “You crest a mountain just to find another mountain and you don’t know which way to go left or right.”
They wanted to find a trail so they started to walk in the deep snow.
“About waist height to chest height powder,” MacLeod said. “We were basically swimming through it.”
After about six hours of trudging through the snow, they were too exhausted and stopped.
Shortly after, the pair heard a helicopter and the sound of snowmobiles. At that point, they set off flares to alert search crews to their location.
“We just started screaming, screaming help, help, help,” Dumonceaux said. “Then saw them coming down the hill, it was amazing.”
The pair was rescued by members of the Revelstoke Search and Rescue.
“It was hell to heaven in two seconds,” MacLeod said.
Both men told Global News they are extremely grateful to search and rescue crews and credit them with saving their lives.
“Words can’t even describe how grateful I am to volunteers and search crews for what they did,” MacLeod said. “They are absolutely unbelievable, unreal people…we owe our lives to them.”
“We can’t thank them enough,” Dumonceaux said. “The nicest people I have ever met in a situation like that. They were like 20 of them, they were all over us, food was coming from every direction in little hot boxes, tea, hot chocolate, soup, giving us the clothes off their back…they were so amazing.”
The pair also said the experience taught them an invaluable lesson.
“You have to be ready to stay the night,” MacLeod said. “You have to have a GPS, have extra gas, you really have to know your equipment…we learned a huge, huge lesson in preparation.”