Liz Kellar
lkellar@theunion.com

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April 1, 2014
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Missing snowboarder found alive in Sierra; runner found safe, too

A snowboarder and a runner both were found alive and in good condition Tuesday, after both men had been missing for more than 24 hours — one near Foresthill and the other near Castle Peak.

Members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team participated in both searches, the first of which began Sunday afternoon.

Word came after 8 p.m. Tuesday that 25-year-old Abraham Finkelstein had been found, more than a day after he disappeared in whiteout conditions between Castle Peak and the Peter Grubb Hut.

“It’s pretty amazing that he’s alive,” said Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Sam Brown.

A team from Nevada County had been helping Monday with the search for Robert Root, a runner who had gone missing the previous day on the Western States trail. He was found Tuesday afternoon.

The team then were called back to help locate some missing snowmobilers, said Nevada County Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Pettitt.

“In the midst of that, we got this report” of a missing hiker in the Castle Peak area of Donner Pass just after 5 p.m. Monday, he said.

Finkelstein’s father reported the two became separated while backcountry snowboarding between Castle Peak and the Peter Grubb Hut.

The pair had set out Monday morning with the plan to hike to the hut, Pettitt said.

“The wind started picking up, and they decided to head back,” he said. “The dad had stopped for a second and the son went on ahead. Whiteout conditions came in, and he couldn’t find his son.”

The father continued on to the trailhead, thinking his son was still in front of him, Pettitt said.

Search teams from both Nevada County and Placer County actively searched the area through Monday night and into Tuesday.

Searchers were using cross country ski teams, snow cats, snowmobiles, and other available resources.

Late Tuesday afternoon, backcountry and Nordic teams with dogs had been called in to check an avalanche site east of Andesite Peak, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Sam Brown. Searchers were also trying to locate a cellphone ping.

“We’re just trying to cover our bases,” Brown said.

Having several searches in the same time frame had depleted mutual aid resources, Brown said, adding, “It’s a select group of people who can go on searches like this. Not everybody possesses these skills.”

Finkelstein apparently had built himself a makeshift shelter, possibly in a tree well, Brown said.

On Tuesday, he was able to walk out to Sherritt Lane in Soda Springs, and called his father from a residence there.

He appeared to be in good condition and was getting medical attention, Brown said.

RUNNER SURVIVED 2 NIGHTS OUTDOORS

Root, a 55-year-old from Modesto, reportedly remained in good condition despite spending two nights outside clad only in a light jacket and shorts.

Root had been running the Western States trail outside of Foresthill and had last been seen around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, before he got separated from the group. When the runners returned to their starting point, they realized Root was missing, said Placer County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Dena Erwin.

They ran back into the rugged canyon area, but were unable to find him; calling for help at 3:20 p.m. Sunday.

More than 60 searchers began looking for Root, with hikers, search dogs, motorcycles, 4x4s, and horse teams in the canyon.

Searchers found Root at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, about two and a half miles from the Michigan Bluff trailhead of the Western States Trail.

Root said he took a wrong turn on the trail, ending up on a cliff overlooking the American River, where he scooted into some shrubbery for warmth and slept off and on throughout the night.

Monday morning, he tried to find his way out, but ended up back at the same spot. He spent the second night in the same area.

Root survived on a small amount of water he had with him, plus some supplements that runners typically carry for energy, Erwin said.

Tuesday, Root decided to head “up and west,” he said, eventually spotting the searchers.

He was transported to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, but appeared to have no injuries, Erwin said.

“The searchers were all awesome,” Root said from his hospital bed Tuesday. “I’m so thankful for all the people in my life.”


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 2, 2014 09:31AM Published Apr 1, 2014 06:51PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.