MULLAN, Idaho (AP) — A snowmobiler who plunged into a freezing Montana ravine says he gave up hope of surviving and wrote goodbye letters to his family before his friends found him, hypothermic and dehydrated, more than a day later.
"When you're an extreme snowmobiler and you get lost, you're usually dead," Barry Sadler told KECI-TV. "You're going places where people won't go — where people shouldn't go."
The 54-year-old Mullan, Idaho, man said part of his extreme mindset was to ride without survival gear or water.
Sadler said he was "side-hilling" — snowmobiling along a steep ridge with one ski in the snow and one in the air — on Sunday when the snow cut loose beneath him, sending him 3,000 feet down a chute into a ravine in northwestern Montana. He landed in a creek with his snowmobile on top of him.
Sadler was able to push away the sled, and he intermittently ran its engine for heat over the next 30-plus hours.
He said he wrote goodbye notes to his wife and kids — ages 20, 18 and 16 — on his cellphone.
When the sled ran out of gas around 10 p.m. Monday, he gave up any hope of surviving.
"I'm not a quitter," he said. "But I knew there was no way I was coming out of there."
He said he put his goggles on because he "didn't want the crows to eat my eyes," Sadler said.
"It was the worst, freezing to death. It's not quick. It's drawn out, and you're shaking so violently it hurts," Sadler told KHQ-TV.
But about two hours later, five friends who had followed his snowmobile track hiked into the ravine and rescued him.
"These guys shook me. I wake up, and all I see are two lights, and I thought they were angels," Sadler said. "And I was kind of out of it, and the only thing I asked was, 'What are you guys doing here?'"
The men gave him dry clothes, blankets and food, but they were still a long way from home. It took five hours to hike out of the drainage, and they had to walk another 2 miles to reach the snowmobiles. They rode an additional 6 miles to Sadler's house.
"It was everything I could do to hold on," Sadler told the Shoshone News-Press.
Sadler suffered some broken bones in his hands and had frostbite.
Two sheriff's deputies involved in the search scolded Sadler for riding by himself and without survival gear, an avalanche beacon or a satellite locator.