Seattle back-country expert breaks standard safety rules in Whatcom county, lucky to be alive
February 27, 2018
CLICK TO ENLARGE. Map shows area where Drulard started out and where he was eventually found.
(BELLINGHAM, WA.) – How easy is it to get into life threatening trouble in the back-country in Washington state this time of year?
Just ask back-country “expert” Dave Drulard, 46, who’d been missing for 21 hours and was in bad shape when he was found about noon Sunday - cold, wet and near the end of his ability to survive - near Barometer Mountain by two members of a Bellingham Mountain Rescue Council search and rescue team.
How lucky was that? Those team embers were coincidentally training nearby. Otherwise they would not have been there.
Drulard told the Bellingham Herald newspaper by phone Monday as he was recuperating at home, “I’ve been hit with physically demanding situations before, but nothing comes close to this. When I met with the SAR guys, I was pretty much at the end.”
Piror to the SAR guys, employees at the Mt. Baker Ski Area had searched for Drulard well past darkness Saturday after he was reported overdue by his wife. They looked for him with people on skis, snowmobiles and Sno-Cat tractors and they even lighted the mountainside with flares but found nothing.
Drulard was only supposed to be gone for a short time for a “short trip through new powder at Heather Meadows.” He and his wife and their two small kids had spent the day at the Mt. Baker ski area and he left about 3 pm for that very short trip – one that turned out to be a heck of lesson in winter survival. (Barometer Mountain is quite a ways away from the Mt. Baker ski area.)
Drulard told the newspaper he broke several basic rules of back-country travel: (1) he wasn't familiar with the terrain (2) he did not tell his wife “exactly” where he was going and (3) he made it a solo trip despite very dangerous avalanche conditions.
He says he spent a very cold Saturday night on the slopes “and was nearing physical exhaustion when he was found,” according to the newspaper report.
You see, he had the misfortune to have fallen through a snow bridge into an ice cold stream, soaking his clothes up to his shoulders and thus forcing him to keep moving to try and stay warm in the frigid air of the mountains.
Had he stopped moving he might have fallen asleep from the cold and exhaustion and died of hypothermia. Lucky for him that group of volunteers “just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Jilk, part of a team that coordinates back-country SAR efforts, told the newspaper that when Drulard was found, he was “going the wrong way and had no idea where he was...and like like every other one of these situations this season, (he) violated some very basic rules. No partner. And (he) didn’t tell anyone where he was going.”
Three other people are missing and presumed dead this winter after they too disappeared in the same general location near Heather Meadows.
More details on this story can be found here .