Armed with long johns, warm gloves and intense optimism, specialized search crews headed into the darkness just past Foresthill to find missing runner Robert Root.
Just before 9 p.m., five members of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team gathered at the search command center at the end of Michigan Bluff.
They huddled-up in preparation to follow in the footsteps of 55-year-old Root, whom they hope to bring home.
The Modesto runner disappeared Sunday while training on the Western States Trail near Foresthill with his running club.
While the accumulated snow and falling flakes proved challenging for the day’s search crews, the Nordic group is specially trained to operate in those conditions.
Ground that Root may have disturbed was spotted close to Anna Sue Mine, but a nearby mudslide and cliff made it too difficult to search at night.
The Nordic searchers planed to split into two groups, hiking southeast to Bake Oven and also northeast to trails in the Deadwood area – looking for any sign of a man fighting the elements, fatigue and possible injury in just the layers meant for a long run.
The group from Tahoe isn’t equipped with a litter in the event they find Root and he’s not able to walk out on his own.
They’d have to return to base camp for that kind of heavier equipment, but at least someone would know where he is.
Members of his running club in Modesto lit candles in hope of his safe return as the five-person night crew hit the trail.
Barring any major overnight developments, a group of 25-45 volunteers will resume searching at 7 a.m. Tuesday.