Photo: Rachel Walker, FTWP
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A lost snowshoer spent a frigid night shivering in near-blizzard conditions at Lake Tahoe after he says a GPS app on his phone failed to point him in the right direction.
Wendell “Raymond” Murdock, an 80-year-old dentist and avid sportsman from Gardnerville, Nev., told the Tahoe Daily Tribune he set off Sunday on a hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail near the top of the Kingsbury Grade. The conditions were challenging to say the least: heavy snow punctuated by 100-mph wind gusts.
But Murdock had installed a new GPS app on his phone and was eager to try it out.
The wind and falling snow quickly covered up his tracks as he ventured deeper into the wilderness.
Some time in the afternoon, he decided to turn back. But instead of routing him back to his starting point, the GPS app guided him into increasingly unfamiliar territory.
“I kept trying to figure it out and tried to get back to my path. Every way I tried to go, it seemed like I was getting further away,” he told the Daily Tribune.
Finally, with darkness approaching, he decided to call for help. He called the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office about 5 p.m. and then, with his phone battery down to about 10 minutes, the county search and rescue team.
But no one came.
By 7 p.m., it was completely dark. Murdock considered trying to hike his way out of the predicament, but knew his odds were better if he stayed put in a clearing that could be seen from a helicopter.
He lay down in the 3-foot-deep fresh snow, but that only made him colder. So instead he carved out a 20-foot path and begin to pace back and forth to stay warm.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office’s search and rescue mission was underway near the Tahoe Rim Trail. But due to the snow level and the danger of avalanches, the search was suspended early Monday morning.
The search resumed at 6 a.m. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the team’s Raven helicopter spotted Murdock in waist-deep snow a few miles from the Tahoe Rim Trailhead just before 10 a.m.
“They passed directly over me two times and didn’t see me,” Murdock told the Daily Tribune. “Then I started to panic a little bit. I was frantically waving but they couldn’t see me. But they came from a different direction and they waved at me.”
Murdock was suffering from mild hypothermia, but otherwise was in good shape. His wife, Darlene, and 9-year-old son, Brice, were relieved to hear he had been found safe and relatively sound.
Rescuers attributed his survival to being dressed warmly enough — if not comfortably — for the conditions. He had been wearing a heavy parka, knit cap and jeans covered by a light shell.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/lost-snowshoer-ordeal-Tahoe-GPS-Rim-Trail-13521468.php.