When Mike Harbak took his snowmobile off his truck to ride Yanks Peak, he had no idea what he was forgetting.
The Prince George rider had accidentally left his emergency shovel behind. It would prove to be a critical mistake, as Harbak was separated from his riding group and got stuck in the snow Sunday, Nov. 22. He was forced to spend the night on the mountain with no food or shelter.
Colin Jalbert who was stuck and briefly reported missing alongside Harbak on Nov. 22, said the only reason he was able to make it back using his snowmobile was because of an emergency shovel given to him by the machine’s previous owner.
Luckily for Harbak, he was rescued the next day after search and rescue crews found him near his stranded machine.
“The only way I could stay warm was starting the sled and laying on the tunnel,” Harbak said while resting comfortably at home a couple of days after the experience. “It wasn’t windy where I was, and it was kinda clear out. That was the biggest break; if it had been colder, I would’ve gotten frostbite on my toes.”
Harbak added he got stuck two other times before getting caught for good.
Search and Rescue teams got the call Nov. 22 at 9 p.m., and they began searching for Harbak the next morning. Harbak said he only had his snowmobile gear, water and Gatorade. Harbak said he slept during the night.
“Nothing I could do at night but sit and hope to hear someone come,” he said.
Harbak said he first heard a rescue helicopter at 9 a.m., but it took a while for it to locate him.
“Luckily, he came straight at me when he found me. I was so relieved.”
Harbak’s action of staying put was praised by Quesnel Search and Rescue search manager Gerald Schut.
“We will find you, don’t try to find us, and that’s what [Harbak] did,” Schut said. “He did the right thing, he stayed with his machine. Some people have lit their snowmobiles on fire just to keep warm, and it sends a bit of a signal to us.”
Harbak said he was able to remain calm by realizing doing anything else would be unproductive.
“Freaking out probably would have made it worse,” he said. “So I just sat by my sled, had headlights on pointing in the sky, because the snow was way too deep to walk in and [I] was a ways away from the main trail.”
Harbak added he would have gotten out on his own if he had his shovel.