A local cross country skier spent January 24 on the south side of the La Sal mountains when he became disoriented while cross country skiing. Robert Hugie of La Sal and Moab drove to the parking lot by Redd’s corrals, the jumping off place for snowmobilers and skiers on Thursday morning for a day of cross country skiing. By evening, he had not returned home as planned.
Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Harris was dispatched to the parking lot to investigate. San Juan County Search and Rescue (SAR) called out local expert snowmobilers late Thursday night to begin a search. Jim Blankenagel, and Lane and Kendall Fuller arrived at the scene to begin searching around 11 p.m.
Conditions were a near whiteout from a blizzard. Two feet of new powder lay on the ground atop older deep snow. Visibility and sleds that kept getting stuck in this powder hampered the search efforts.
These men, well acquainted with the mountain, sledded to various cabins in the vicinity to see if the lost skier had taken shelter in the storm.
The search continued until about 3 a.m. and resumed at daylight. La Sal searchers were joined by San Juan County Search and Rescue, including Sheriff Mike Lacy.
The various cabins were again searched for signs of the lost man. These cabins included Hal Bane’s camp, Tag-a-long Tours cabin, the Deeter camp, Redd’s cabins and the cabins at Dark Canyon Lake. A UHP helicopter, with Deputy Sheriff Grayson Redd aboard, arrived to continue the search.
Tracks were spotted near the base camp. Paul Sonderegger of Monticello followed the tracks on his snowmobile as far has his sled would go while the helicopter hovered overhead.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Hugie was found about 400 yards from the parking lot. He had become disoriented and had traveled in circles. The snowmobiles were unable to reach him but he was encouraged to work his way out under his own power. He had spent part of the night in a rough lean-too shelter.
He was flown to Monticello to the San Juan Hospital and later taken to the University of Utah hospital due to frostbite.