Mark Gayowski was missing on Red Mountain for more than two days in a terrible snowstorm. (Submitted photo)

Missing skier found safe after spending three days caught in ‘horrific’ terrain

Successful end to three-day search for 34-year-old Mark Gayowski

A three-day search for a missing skier on Rossland’s Red Mountain has ended in success.

But it wasn’t easy.

Mark Gayowski was found in good health on New Year’s Day by search and rescue teams scouring a very rough patch of the mountainside along Esling Creek.

He was lost in an area with hundreds of huge downed trees, treacherous potholes with running creek underneath, and confusing terrain.

“It was so treacherous, it took our teams six hours to get in, and they didn’t get far,” says Mike Hudson, the South Columbia SAR leader. “Horrific is the best word to describe it.”

“The rescuers were falling off into the creek, it was horrible trying to climb over, under, and around all this stuff, especially with skis on.”

The search was hard from the start, with about 90 SAR members starting the search Monday night in heavy snowfall conditions, cold, fog, and freezing rain.

Rescuers got into the area a few hours earlier on New Years Day, Hudson says, and took a route that got them around some of the worst of the creek’s terrain, where they found Gayowski.

“He was in great health, had a smile but was extremely exhausted, but very happy to see the rescuers,” says Hudson.

A few minutes after locating the man, and with weather co-operating, Dam Helicopters of Nelson flew in and picked him up.

“The sky opened up in just the right time,” says Hudson. “The heli came down, picked up the subject, pulled him out, went back, picked up the teams and pulled them out. Then the sky closed back up and that was it. It was just perfect.”

The 34-year-old Rossland native was airlifted out of the backcountry and brought to SAR’s location at Red Mountain, where he was checked over by physicians.

It wasn’t the only search for SAR on New Year’s Day on Red. They received a second call for a young man who went missing on the mountain. Hudson says it turned out the youth walked up the mountain in tennis shoes and a light jacket, and eventually found shelter in a ski patrol shack. That incident took about two hours to clear.

Teams from Rossland, Castlegar, Nelson, Kaslo, Grand Forks, Kimberly and Cranbrook all participated in the searches, as well as RCMP.

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