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Bend father-son snowmobilers recount survival test

By John Hendricks
Published On: Feb 26 2013 01:12:23 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 26 2013 11:08:43 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks talks with a father and son who spent the night in snow cave near Elk Lake

MT. BACHELOR, Ore. -

A Bend man and his 13-year-old son are sharing their story, offering thanks to rescuers -- and sharing possibly life-saving advice after they got lost, their snowmobiles ran out of gas and they spent Sunday night huddled in a snow cave south of Elk Lake.

"Thank you doesn't do it," said Eric Abney, 40. "Tonight was going to be rough.  What do you say? Thanks!"

Eric and his son, Hunter, set out Sunday afternoon a day snowmobile ride from Edison Butte Sno-Park.

Abney said the two had originally wanted to park their pickup and trailer at Wanoga Sno-Park. But Wanoga was packed for a weekend event, so the father and son took the recommendation of others and headed to Edison.

Unfamiliar with the area, they grabbed a map and set out.

"First turn out of there, we thought we were going left on the 43 Road to the 4," Abney said. "But apparently we turned left on the 3."

The two figured out their mistake, but harsh weather moved in and their GPS could not get a signal. They traveled until they found a Forest Service road and a sign that said Edison Butte Sno-Park, 14 miles ahead.

"I thought, 'Oh great, we are there," Abney said. "Eleven miles later on the trail we hit a tee and no sno-park, so something happened. We went back to the intersection, tried again, still couldn't find Edison Sno-Park."

As night fell, they decided to head for Elk Lake, but one of their sleds ran out of fuel. As they made it to the Cascade Lakes Highway, the second one ran out as well. That's when they decided it was time to set up camp.

"Then we dug a snow cave, the cold was setting in," Abney said, "and wow -- the cold comes fast."

They built a snow cave, lined the floor with tree boughs, started a fire and began to melt snow for water. Eric Began signalling S.O.S. with his flashlight in the tallest Ponderosa nearby, hoping someone would see them.

As Monday morning arrived, friends and family became worried and called for help. For hours, nearly 100 people searched for the father and son lost in the woods.

Monday afternoon, Hunter's feet became cold and he was in much pain. His father bundled up his son in the snow cave and set out for help.

Eric Abney said he planned to travel on foot for one hour, then return back to his son if he didn't find help.

But just before 1:30 p.m. Monday, Hunter was found in his snow cave by a passing snowmobiler.

"When he left, I just kind of laid down and listened," Hunter Abney said later. "Snowmobiles came by, and I just had a mini-heart attack and jumped out and yelled, 'Hey! Hey!"

 A short time later, his dad was found about a mile away, and the two were taken back to Mt. Bachelor, where searchers had set up their command post.

Eric and Hunter say they will return to the mountains again. But Eric says he's glad he was prepared for the worst.

"Ask yourself that question: 'I'm going to spend the night on the mountain tonight. What do I want with me?' Abney said. "If you don't bring it, you don't have it."

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