SIERRA COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) – A Tahoe man lost for a week in the Sierra County mountains was found safe Sunday.
The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office was notified that Harland Earls was traveling from Grass Valley to Truckee on Jan. 24 but never made it to his destination.
The day after Earls set out, the big storm hit, “which blanketed much of our high country in 6 to 8 feet of snow,” according to Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kress.
Deputies said his family put together search parties and checked all along Highway 49 in Nevada, Yuba and Sierra counties, but they weren’t able to find him. The family notified authorities in those counties and they were on alert with photos of Earls and his vehicle.
On Sunday, one week later, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from Earls.
“He was able to hike out from his truck camper by using snowboards strapped to his feet as snow shoes, up to a high point to call 911,” Kress told FOX40.
Although the call was dropped, the sheriff’s office was able to confirm his identity and determine his GPS location.
Officials said Earls was calling from Henness Pass Road near Alleghany in Sierra County, an area that received heavy snowfall the past week and was not accessible by road.
The search and rescue team for the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office went to search the area on a snowcat and were helped by a California Highway Patrol helicopter.
The CHP helicopter crew located Earls and was able to land and take him to a local hospital. He was in good condition and declined treatment.
Earls told authorities that on his way back to Truckee from Grass Valley on Jan. 24, he had to change course to Highway 49 because Interstate 80 was closed due to snow. He said his GPS directed him to Henness Pass Road off Highway 49 because it was the shortest route.
Henness Pass Road is closed for the winter because of its location and exposure to heavy snowfall.
Earls told deputies he did not know about the closure, got stuck on Henness Pass Road and could not turn around.
The sheriff’s office said Earls was able to survive in his vehicle for a week stuck in a snowed-in road because he was prepared with winter clothing, a camper and propane.
“He was very, very fortunate to have the experience and the equipment to survive out that time frame,” Kress told FOX40. “Your normal person who did the same thing in their vehicle and got snowed in right before this storm, I think it’d be very rare for them to be able to as well for that length of time.”
Earls was able to look for cell phone service Sunday after conditions improved.
Authorities warn winter travelers to not always rely on GPS driving directions, particularly in the winter months.
“He was very lucky and a very happy ending,” Kress said.