Geelong skier survives night in snow cave

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Feb 21, 2008
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Julie McNamara

August 21st, 2008


A SNOW cave saved the life of a Geelong man who spent a freezing night on Mt Baw Baw after becoming lost while skiing on Tuesday.

The 64-year-old carved a snow cave by hand and huddled under branches and leaves to survive the night in -1.4 degree temperatures.
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He was rescued just before 2.30pm yesterday after more than 24 hours in the snow.

Police and Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort CEO Leona Turra said if it was not for his common sense in constructing the shelter, the man almost certainly would have died of hypothermia.

"It's not just the temperature that you have to worry about, but the wind as well because it adds a chill factor and it was quite windy last night," Ms Turra said.

"The gentleman was a seasoned skier and he had food with him and water. He dug himself a shelter and used leaves and branches and stayed warm overnight," she said.

She said he escaped the ordeal unscathed.

"He was very cold and very tired but he was fine. He was examined by our paramedics on the mountain," she said.

The man is believed to have set off from Mt Baw Baw resort on Tuesday morning with plans to ski along a track between Mt Baw Baw and Mt St Gwinear.

It is unknown how far he got before he became disorientated.

Acting Sergeant Rosemary Unwin of Warragul police said the man's wife contacted police late on Tuesday after the man failed to return from skiing at the planned time of 5.30pm.

Police conducted a road search on Tuesday night and began searching the snow at first light yesterday, but it was a recreational skier who found the man.

Ms Turra said the skier came across the man yesterday morning and returned to the resort to raise the alarm.

She said a search was immediately instigated, but the man wasn't in the area that searchers were given directions to attend.

Ms Turra said the same skier ended up finding the man later that afternoon and walked him back to the resort about 2.30pm.

"He was the real hero," she said.

Police said the man was found about 1.5km from the Mt Baw Baw ski resort.

Act-Sgt Unwin said two helicopters were involved in the search as well as local police and Mt Baw Baw ski resort's ski patrol.

She said the outcome was a huge relief.

"It's very cold up there at the moment and if he hadn't known what he was doing it could have been quite a sad day," she said.

Police drove the man to the nearby township of Neerim South where he was met by his wife.

It is believed the couple travelled back to Geelong last night.

They did not wish to speak to the media yesterday.
 

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