Lost on summit, man builds snow cave for survival
Senior Staff Writer
and Kyle Magin
Rescuers exhaled Thursday after they found a Tahoe City man alive: He had survived atop Donner Summit amid brutal snow conditions by building a snow cave.
A bevy of search-and-rescue personnel found Kevin B. Davis, 28, Thursday near Donner Summit after he got separated from friends while snowshoeing Tuesday afternoon, said the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
Davis was airlifted in a California Highway Patrol helicopter to the Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, where Sheriff Keith Royal said he was recovering Thursday from hypothermia. It was unclear when Davis would be released.
Conditions were relatively good early in the week, but snow picked up and visibility diminished Tuesday night into Wednesday; up to 16 inches of snow were reported in the Truckee area.
Davis was found about a third of a mile from the Peter Grub Hut near Castle Peak on Donner Summit at 12:25 p.m. Thursday, the Sheriff’s Office said. He was taking shelter in a snow cave he built, Royal said.
He waved down helicopters from the Air National Guard and CHP with a thermal blanket.
“He’s an outdoorsman and had some knowledge on how to survive in this kind of a situation,” Royal said. “The conditions were extreme. Search and Rescue had a very difficult time with the tremendous visibility problems.”
Davis and three other people were snowshoeing and cross country skiing Monday and spent the night at the Peter Grub Hut, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The group members were returning to their vehicles Tuesday when they lost Davis around 2:45 p.m. The Nevada County Search and Rescue team launched a quick search to the scene and found Davis’ tracks, only to have them obscured by falling snow. His cellular telephone battery died during the trip, and Davis had no means of contacting rescuers, Royal said.
“It’s a good reminder that, if you’re going to be out in these kinds of conditions, you need a GPS or a working cell phone,” Royal said.
About 80 rescuers from across the state showed up to search for Davis, Royal said. Four Snowcats were used in the rescue operation, as well as seven snowmobiles and helicopters from CHP and the Air National Guard. The helicopter assistance was invaluable once conditions improved, Royal said.
Other searchers include members of the Tahoe Nordic National Ski Patrol, the Truckee Police Department, the CHP, the Air National Guard and members of the Sierra, Alpine, El Dorado, Placer, San Mateo, Amador and Contra Costa sheriff’s offices.
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