Being stranded on a remote snow-covered road in the West doesn’t always end as well as it did for a couple on a mountain north of Los Angeles.
The pair and their two dogs were plucked by helicopter and taken to safety after they ran out of food and water and phoned for help from a camping trip that turned into a snowbound two-week test, authorities said Thursday.
The man and woman in their mid-30s were in good condition and didn’t need to be hospitalized after being airlifted from Alamo Mountain on Wednesday.
“They were tired, [sun] burned, dirty, but definitely glad to see me,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Miranda, a paramedic who was lowered down to assess their condition. “Neither had any complaints other than ‘We’re tired, we’re hungry.’ ”
By the measure of winter ordeals, their experience was mild.
In 2006, a San Francisco family of four got stranded on a snowy road in Southern Oregon while trying to cut from Interstate 5 to the coast. The mother and two daughters were rescued nine days later, but the father, James Kim, who had walked more than 16 miles in the cold and snow for help, was found dead in a creek.
In 1992, a young California couple with an infant son bound for a family funeral in Idaho took a shortcut through the Nevada desert and got marooned in a blizzard. Jim Stolpa walked 50 miles for help, and he and his wife, Jennifer, lost all their toes to frostbite in a tale that was turned into a TV movie.
In the case of the Southern California campers, whose names have not been released, their trip was intended for fun near the 7,400-foot peak that is about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The area is not far from Interstate 5, but the mountains are rugged and remote and mainly accessible only on dirt roads that aren't plowed in winter.
Miranda said he thinks the couple misjudged the weather forecast. A series of storms brought four days of rain and snow to the area last week.
“Typically the news kind of overexaggerates the coming storm and you get a little sprinkle,” Miranda said. “I think they underestimated what was going to happen and they got dumped on.”
The couple camped in their Dodge Dakota pickup and ran the engine intermittently for warmth, Miranda said.
They had warm clothing and ran into problems only when their food ran out and they no longer had fuel for their stove to melt drinking water.
The couple hiked about 2.5 miles to get cellphone reception, then returned to their pickup to retrieve their two dogs after speaking with officers.
The helicopter crew had the coordinates of the spot where the couple made the 911 call, but it took a while to follow faint tracks in the crusty snow to find the truck, Miranda said.
The truck was parked in the road, blocked by snow and a large pine tree that had fallen down. The man had managed to shovel a short distance but “had miles to go,” Miranda said.
Another camper stranded on nearby Mount Pinos was rescued after calling for help Jan. 14, the first day of the storm.
Deputies couldn’t initially get through deep snow in four-wheel drive vehicles to reach the 24-year-old woman, but another team in snowcats, which have tank-like treads and are used for grooming ski slopes, rescued her, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said.
The road to Alamo Mountain and campgrounds in the area are currently listed as closed.
When the helicopter finally spotted the pair rescued Wednesday, they were jumping up and down.
Miranda, who usually responds to cases involving major injuries, said it was nice to have a more benign rescue.