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This Winter Survival Skill Saved Two Women Lost in the Mountains

Tess Pennington
March 1st, 2019
Ready Nutrition
Comments (68) Read by 9,143 people

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This article was originally published by Tess Pennington at Ready Nutrition

Emergencies happen when we least expect them, and as two women recently found out, when you plan for the worst, your odds of survival increase.

A survival story made headlines recently about two women who lost their way in the Sierra Nevada mountains over President’s Day Weekend. The two became disoriented in the snow and lost their way while cross-country skiing and spent two days in harsh winter elements before they were able to notify relatives that they were lost, and the relatives then called 911. Emergency responders are now claiming they survived subzero temperatures from knowing how to make a winter survival shelter.

Image Source: Mountain Democrat

In the article:

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Almos said they received the call about the women’s distress at midnight on Saturday. On Sunday they did a “hasty search” but all attempts were failing due to conditions, Almos said that even snowmobiles and a snow cat couldn’t navigate in the deep snow. “We even contemplated sending a drone,” he said, but there was a blizzard. “It’s tough to even send people out there due to the conditions.”

Fortunately, the women knew enough to build a snow cave in the heavy snow and were able to survive Saturday night when temperatures dropped below freezing.


Jared Boothe, a flight officer/paramedic with the California Highway Patrol’s Valley Division Air Operations said the helicopter crew spotted the women around 9:30 a.m. on Monday. “If they hadn’t had the skill set and experience to build a snow cave, it likely would have been a fatal event as temperatures were reported to be a minus 8 degrees without considering wind chill,” Boothe said. “If they had sat out in the open, they likely wouldn’t have made it out.”

Navigating in the Snow

It is easy to become disoriented in a snowy landscape. In a previous article about navigating the snow, the writer states it’s more difficult than one would think. “First, with snow blanketing the landscape, the appearance of the terrain is changed. Secondly, the landscape is also physically altered: it is a different thing to walk across six inches to several feet of snow. Right now, where I live, I have almost three feet of snow on the ground. The winter weather conditions are another item: it’s a far cry from a summer stroll when you walk into a cold wind that is throwing sleet right into your face in the middle of February.” He emphasizes knowing the terrain and pace count is the best way to navigate in a wintry area.

While it should go without saying, dress appropriately for winter conditions. You never know when you will find yourself staring down the business end of an emergency situation. “Pick up a good pair of goggles that do not fog up, and appropriate shielding for the face. Make sure you’re dressed in all-weather to combat the weather. I recommend Gore-Tex from head to toe.  A GPS compass will help, but here it is important to rely on the basics because batteries do die, electronics can be fouled up by extremes in weather and temperature, and it’s always best to rely on the “primitive” and skills.” Try this compass instead.

Other lightweight tools to keep in mind are:

How a Snow Cave Will Protect You

If you find yourself in a situation like the women skiers who lost their way, learn from their survival story and teach yourself essential winter skills. A snow cave or a quinzee will protect you from the elements and is perfect for areas where snow is not too deep and has powdery snow in order to form correctly. This snow shelter uses the powdery snow which will pack and bond together so that it is easier to hollow out and form a shelter. A properly made snow cave can be 0 °C (32 °F) or warmer inside, even when outside temperatures are −40 °C (−40 °F).

A snow cave is constructed by excavating snow so that the tunnel entrance is below the main space to retain warm air. If made correctly, your body heat will insulate and heat the inside of the cave and save your life.

The video provides step-by-step instructions. If you do not have a shovel on hand, look for makeshift tools like a flat rock or a split piece of wood.

Keep These Winter Shelter Tips in Mind

  • If you can face your shelter towards the east you will be able to prevent heat loss from prevailing winds and storms coming into your shelter.
  • Protect yourself from the elements by using branches, sticks, tarps or whatever you have available. Pine branches are great for wind-proofing your shelter and preventing heat loss from the ground.
  • Body heat can quickly escape if you do not have a ground insulator. If you can make your bedding area off the ground, you will be able to conserve more body heat. Consider pine needles, leaves, spruce boughs and/or branches, or even building up the snow around your primitive shelter.
  • Dehydration in cold climates can be a major risk when outdoors. Excessive perspiration, heavy clothing, and increased respiratory fluid loss are other factors that contribute to dehydration in cold climates. For example, when you can see your own breath, that’s actually water vapor that your body is losing. The colder the temperature and the more intense the exercise, the more vapor you lose when you breathe.
  • Take into consideration your energy output on building the shelter versus the protection of the shelter. This is labor intensive so be mindful of how much time it is taking to ensure you are not overexposed to the winter elements. Being exposed to the elements longer than three hours could be life-threatening.

Start training for winter survival emergencies with some basic shelters and then move into more advanced. Knowing these skills could save your life!

Additional Reading:

How To Build a Snow Cave

Quinzee Building

A Step-By-Step Guide To Prepare You For Any Disaster

A Green Beret’s Guide To Building an Emergency Winter Shelter

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her website at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

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Author: Tess Pennington
Views: Read by 9,143 people
Date: March 1st, 2019
Website: https://readynutrition.com/

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  1. Abaddon says:

    Kudos to these two women. They are a great example of how being prepared pays off.

    • Paranoid says:

      Sorry to hijack the post but CCW passed Kentucky house 5 minutes ago Gov has said he swill sign

    • Eisenkreutz says:

      When whites are a minority, kiss all your rights goodbye.

    • Love stories says:

      Knowing how to survive extreme cold is a good skill to know. Knowing how to read a compass… priceless.

      • Mountain Trekker says:

        As I have stated before (Always) carry a good lighter. I live in some of the most remote country in the lower 48 and I’m always telling people that I know that hunt and fish in the wilderness to carry a lighter, and they just laugh and say OK. In the article it says face your shelter to the East, in my experience the worst and most extreme weather usually comes out of the East. I was on a hunting trip one time and it was snowing very hard and I had a GPS and I decided not to use it for a test and I found out that you will do just what they say, you will go in a circle. I also found out that in heavy snow it can even be a problem trying to use a GPS or a Compass because the snowfall will cover the screen almost faster than you can read it, so be careful when in the Mountains even in the summer, very often it can be very warm when you start out in a tee and if you get lost it can and will drop 30 or 40 degrees at night. Trekker Out

    • Big E says:

      20 mile hike in the Everglades today. A truly dangerous place.

  2. Seminole Wind says:

    Yup good fur dem! Here in The Gunshine State to survive all you have to do is drink plenty of water and watch out fur dem, Gators, Snakes, and Hogs!

    Friday night, Catfish and Hushpuppies! Yahoo

  3. repr sleepr says:

    Folks if you can find an older edition of the ‘Boy Scouts’ hand book. I found several one day poking around in a antique Store up in Frederick, MD. and paid thirty dollars for a 1967 edition. I was in the scouts for awhile long before they sold their own souls to the queers. But these books do contain a lot of knowledge of existing out in the wilderness. Know at least four different methods of getting a fire going and how to build wood wall on the backside of the fire to throw/reflect the heat towards your shelter. Learn how to look for the right wood to start a fire after several days of rain. Build fire kits to carry with you on your pack and belts. Belts are another subject. Be redundant on what you need most of. Get some dry bags to carry a few extra clothes in. They sell these at Sportsman guide. Around 16 bucks will get you a three pack of these. Don’t buy first aid kits make your own as well as sewing kits for repairs. Keep a role of duct tape or Gorrilla Tape for repairs. Both of the tapes can be shredded and use to start a tinder bundle to make a fire. There are a lot of things you walk by everyday at home that can be repurposed. cheers.

  4. Angry Beaver says:

    Good job girls,
    Very nice neat artical.
    I know from personal experience how fast things can go wrong.
    I’ve been trapped in the bush twice
    One with a sprained ankle and once due to weather moving in.
    I sprained my left ankle one day in the fall. I was about 2 miles from my pickup.
    First thought fuck it’s broke. Now what?
    I left the boot on and tied a splint. Dropped my pack and loaded my tool belt.
    4.5 hours later I came to a clearing where my pickup was. Came back the next day with a friend to retrieve my gear.
    Was hunting elk with the ol’man up around fort Saint John when a blizzard came up outta no where total white out. No big emergency except the storm lated 3 days
    We had meat plenty of it. We were packing quarters out on the sled. Fire cooked elk.
    Yum yum yummy. Storm let up we managed to get it all out. Over the next day and a half. Small leantoo shelter Pune branch floor like stones in front to reflect heat
    Just another day in the bush.
    Side note::
    Will be heading out tomorrow 6am the weather should be good only minus 15c.
    Fill ya all in when I get back.

  5. Gestor says:

    My favorite snow survival movie along with a dose of no good deed goes unpunished.
    Maybe best Canadian movie of all.

    ht tps://youtu.be/l5vn_ySwwLw

  6. Good reminder for us all to prepare for the conditions in our immediate environment.

    There is video of an Eskimo building an igloo on YouTube, but I guess this tunnel is more practical in an emergency. I’m more likely to be stranded in the desert than to be snowed in.


    Judas Jared Kushner is exposed by a special council of the Justice department for traitorous acts involving a multi-billion dollar deal to sell nuclear bombs to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly so they could bomb Iran.

    If you are interested, today’s radio show on Rense by David Duke is about this as well as a discussion about white Genocide with guest speaker Mark Colet.


    • Gestor says:

      All dissenters will meet the same fate as Jamal Khashoggi regardless of their nationality.
      Once the NWO has successfully committed an assassination in broad open daylight without reprisal anyone is susceptible… anyone.

  7. Justice says:

    I recently added a few cold weather survival items to my preps.

    1. A pair of tactical Mittens. That’s right. Tactical Mittens! RefrigiWear Men’s Thinsulate Insulated Extreme Freezer Mittens. Sorry but they are no longer 20% off. I got the extra large and wish they were a little bigger to facilitate more layering. However, they are top quality.

    h ttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LYB5A6A/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    2. A prepper cannot have enough wool blankets. Consequently, I have a few of these. Ever Ready First Aid Olive Drab Green Warm Wool Fire Retardent Blanket, 66″ x 90″ (80% Wool)-US Military. They seem to be good quality. But I have not put them to the test. Beware machine washing and/or drying them!

    Some people object to me posting Amazon links, but I would trade with the devil to get the prepper supplies I need. Otherwise I have an incredibly STRONG band-hand.

  8. Angry Beaver says:

    I know I’ve said this before but I think it’s important to remind everyone and our new posters.
    If you search military manuals.
    You will find literally 100s of training manuals tech manuals covering everything from combat triage to how to operate a tank. They are available 100% Free you can download and print them.many of these manual sell for $50+. And they are edited for civilian consumption.
    Learn to interrogate how to resist interrogation escape evation guerilla warfare counter insurgency it’s all there folks. Freedom of information.its a beautiful thing.

    • Angry Beaver says:

      Forgot to mention:
      Keep in mind folks this is also good insite to how the the modern millenial soldier thinks what he’s likely to do.
      How he’s likely to react to you under certain conditions.
      I’ve downloaded a half dozen and man there is some really cool stuff to be learned.

      • Justice says:

        Angry Beaver, incredible timing. The last several days I have been getting my electronic files together. If anyone has a link to a bunch of the best prepper/survival e-books/manuals please post a link/source.

        I use a tool called VideoGrabby to download prepper/ instructional videos from YouTube. It really easy, just paste the video link into the text box on the website.

  9. Justice says:

    On my internet ravels, looking for prepper supplies at a good price, I find interesting things that I try to share. Just in case anyone else might be interested.

    I never stocked up on candles. I just didn’t think they are safe and they’re kind of expensive. Well I think I found a good substitute. Especially if you are like me and have a lot of re-chargeable AA batteries! These lanterns are almost twice at other stores and $29.00 at Wayfair.com.

    CORE 85 Lumen CREE LED Mini Battery Lantern, 3 AA, Camp Lantern, Emergency Lantern they have on Low Mode: 9 Lumens; 308 hr run time; 2m Beam Range ONLY $10.99

    I think it beats using candles?!?!

    • Justice says:

      Sorry, “internet travels”. Please forgive my sloppy typing, spelling and thinking.

    • Angry Beaver says:

      No candles????
      Id point out batteries are bulky heavy and they will never be anything but a battery.
      Rechargeables will need some type of power source. Cords and chargers very convenient yes.
      The candles will provide heat light source of wax bees wax can be used to plug wounds make more candles.
      If your just in a temp power outage batteries are good
      But you mentioned not using candles for safety reasons… If in a shtf situation I’d say danger would an expected occurence.
      I have both but in my hunting pack I carry a small AA flashlight and 3 beeswax candles.
      Never hurts to keep some handy.

  10. grandee says:

    wow, we, as kids, used to make snow forts, snow walls and snow caves back in SW Iowa in the 60’s.

    What fun we had. We would take old rugs into the snow cave and stay there and play all day. 🙂

    We’d make pots and pans and bowls out of snow and have the best time.

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      i bet you dint spend the NIGHT in those igloos? it’s one thing to “play all day”….but quite another to be stuck for a night too, in what could be life-threatening cold. i very much enjoy taking my scouts to the mountains and teaching them how to survive the snow/wet/cold. we try to plan the coldest days of the year to do it on. many reading this article and comments will end up dying when they are forced into these conditions, because they don’t realize DOING something, or just READING about it, are not one and the same……PRACTICE makes perfect…..thank you grandee, for your many very-useful posts here on shtfplan!

  11. Quatermain says:

    Twice I have been in situations with whiteout conditions that would have been very serious without a ranger compass in hand. No batteries, no satellite and it works every time.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Angry Beaver just wondering if you full filled your 9 minutes, I actually went over by 3 minutes, a very short time to pray that our people and our nation would stop being like Molech, The Murder of innocent babies through Abortion is one of the few things that is more important than the 2nd Amendment in my books. Trekker Out

  13. Mountain Trekkerm says:

    Angry Beaver, I full filled my 9 minutes and actually went over by 3 minutes, a very short time to pray for the people and our country that we would stop being like Moleck. The murder of innocent babies by Abortion is one of the few things in my life that is more important than the 2nd Amendment. Trekker Out

  14. Mountain Trekker says:

    This is the third time I have entered this comment, it seems to keep dissapearing. Angry Beaver I full filled my 9 minutes. I prayed for the people and this country that we would not be like Moleck. The murder of innocent children through abortion ranks right ahead of the 2nd Amendment in my books. Trekker Out.

    • rellik says:

      I’ve had the same thing happen. I suspect that unless you get a message about moderation, your comment will eventually show up.
      Many times I’ve entered a comment, thinking I was the first to comment, only to return some time later and see that there were several comments in front of mine. In some cases I would have I made a different comment had I seen those hidden “Gems”.

      • Mountain Trekker says:

        Rel I guess that’s what happened, the first time I forgot to enter my name, so it came up anon and every other time it posted and never said in moderation but when I came back it was gone. kinda had me stumped. Trekker Out

  15. Brian says:

    One of the first things Aborigine children are taught is how to survive on their own if they ever get separated from the group. Easy to see why.

    • rellik says:

      I thought everyone taught their kids how to survive on their own if separated from the family. Depending on where you live or travel determines the skill set you teach them.

  16. Gestor says:

    The weatherman is calling for a wintry mix but I’m waaaay ahead of him.

  17. Bert says:

    People that lack good common sense and basic intelligence shouldn’t leave their room at the looney bin.

    Another infromercial ‘buy my shit’ story.

    Rename the story title to ‘Buy My Shit’

    • Mountain Trekker says:

      Bert I just have to use your ‘Buy My Shit’ comment to brag a little bit. I’m always looking for bargains when it comes to wool or goose down, a couple of weeks ago I was in a 2nd hand store and on the rack was a Cabelas 55% wool 1/4 zip pullover sweater with windstopper which is goretex and believe it or not it was made in the USA, it must be old but it is in excellent condition and even though one size larger than I wear it is great when layering, but the best part is including tax it cost me $5.85, I’m sure it sold new for around 100 bucks. I’ve already got my monies worth out of this thing, I was hiking today and it was 11 degrees with a pretty good wind, sure felt good. Trekker Out

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      that’s not what I took away from the story, bert. what i see is that it pays off to get educated about what clothes, tactics, resources work for you in a cold-weather emergency…..if you didn’t know how to protect yourself from cold, or know what to have in your vehicle BEFORE this article, then you SHOULD KNOW now. there’s plenty of info in the comments section to educate us. nice to see that when the author saw someone lose, that the lesson wasn’t LOST, but passed on. BTW, the military now has the “protective combat uniform”, or PCU, to replace the ECWCS from the old days. now, you can be standing in a lake with ice all around you, and walk out of the lake, walk for an hour, and the uniform will be DRY. quite an amazing system, but expensive as hell. i’m happy with the ECWCS stuff myself, as it does a GREAT job keeping me warm. have a bag full of it in your vehicle for every person likely to be in the car, and you’ll be fine. cover the ears, neck, and head if yer feet get cold. also, if it’s raining AND cold, keep yer hands out of yer pockets, as that rain goes right into those pockets. i like a lil longer sleeves so i can draw my hands up into the sleeves. military gear is usually available in tall, even extratall sizes sometimes. polypropylene is the word to look for when buying cold-weather gear, as i’ve written many times in these columns. it’s easy to stay warm, you just gotta have the right gear, from the surplus store, or e-bay is even cheaper, probly.

  18. Asshat says:

    who wouldn’t make some kind of snow hut. the wind chill will zap the heat out of you quick. As long as you went out with the right clothing layers and boots you could easily survive this. Bring in some dry logs to sit on you’d be good. You wouldn’t need a fire even. As long as you didn’t sweat building the shelter you wouldn’t need a fire but it would be nice to have a stainless uninsulated water bottle and a fire to melt snow in and have hot water to drink. Just drinking hot liquids will keep you warm. You could put the cap on the bottle and use it to help stay warm by putting it between your jacket and sweater. Or just hold onto it to keep your hands warm. You could heat up some rocks in a fire and bring them into your shelter and set them on a piece of wood they will radiate heat for hours. I’d do this just before turning in. Good winter clothing a stainless bottle and a bic lighter would be bare minimum for anyone who knows what they are doing.

  19. Anonymous says:

    These are some real ladies! Their smarts paid off for them.

  20. Rock Roller says:

    Here’s a tip for anyone who’s interested.I always have a warm jacket, hat, gloves,snacks, water, and a wool blanket in my vehicle in winter and it stays in there. I also made a little emergency candle heater for cheap.Buy a clean METAL empty gallon paint can at any paint store. Drill about 8 holes about an inch from the bottom of the can, all the way around . Buy a 100 pack of tea candles, wall mart has a 100 pack for $4.00. Put a new lighter and the tea candles in the can, put the lid back on it and leave it in your vehicle.I taped a paint can opener to the lid. If you need it, burn about 4 or 5 tea candles in the can at a time with the lid off. It puts out enough heat to keep you from freezing in a car or truck if you were stranded or stuck.I made some for my friends this winter, wrote “Emergency Heat” on the can, lol. Such a simple thing, but could really save your ass in a cold situation !

  21. Philosopher Deplorabilis says:

    Got hypothermia in July, once.

    How? Went out for Summer Hunt SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). Camped out in my regular REI tent with a proven rain cover. That wasn’t the problem.

    The problem was wearing cotton / linen clothes for the re-enactment stuff. Storm blew in, dropped the temp. Wind, hard rain. Clothes got wet and no place to get warm. Tried bundling up in the tent but I had brought a down comforter. It was summer hunt. Not enough.

    Ended up dismantling camp during a break in the weather. Long drive home along with a ferry ride. Made it home but it took several days to warm up. Hot baths were key way to warm up. It probably took me six months to realize I had hypothermia.

    That group was not checking on participants, either, to see if everyone was okay. I no longer attend SCA events due to that lack of oversight.

    Be careful with groups.

    • Justice says:

      A valuable story. Thanks.

      • Philosopher Deplorabilis says:

        I was in my 40s when that happened. I should have known better.

        One, I failed to diagnose that I was suffering from hypothermia.

        Two, even though I was part of a group no one else recognized that I was suffering from hypothermia.

        Hypothermia does not mean you suffer from frostbite. It does mean that your core body temperature drops to a level that imparis your thinking and motor skills.

        That I was able to dismantle my tent and drive myself home, while impaired, is stunning. The worst part of that event, for me, was that no one in the group was trained, or looking, or aware, of a possible hypothermic event in the summer.

        Please teach this to group leaders, especially of young people!

        I was in a group of adults and no one in the group did a safety check. That is why I no longer participate with that group. It’s all fun and games until someone dies. Then shit gets real.

  22. As a Canadian winter camper and builder of many Quinzee huts, I cannot stress enough the importance of moisture control. Building a snow shelter is labor-intensive. You’ll sweat unless you monitor your temperature and perspiration. Too much moisture will kill you, especially since many people wear cotton which loses 110% of its insulation (it’ll cool when moist which is why summer T-shirts are made of cotton.)

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