It was a typical winter morning on the trails and closed summer roads of Pinecrest. The sun was shinning, temperatures were in the mid 20's, mild winds, with a fresh dusting of newly fallen snow - ever so inviting to two ill suspecting winter visitors.
Their narrative reflects a common scenario that continues on our trails today.
Arrivingf Friday afternoon on December 29th, 1978, our winter visitors began a leisurely ski tour from the CrabTree trailhead. Following the snow cover summer road towards Gianelli Cabin they skied along enjoying their day out in the forest. Hours passed as they arduously made they made the moderate climb, eventually arriving at Aspen Meadow. There they stopped for a most welcomed rest. Having not eaten since breakfast that day, they were hungry, tired and feeling the effects of their quick ascent to altitude. Unsuspecting, they didn't notice the heavy cloud cover that was now beginning to close in around them, and they seemingly weren't concerned with a rapid drop in temperatures that was chilling their idle, undernourished and dehydrated bodies. As they dallied away the remaining hours of daylight, the storm that was building continued to close within and the temperatures continued to drop. Now getting dark and snow falling quite heavily, gave them cause for a hasty return to trailhead. Their hastened journey however, in total darkness and under heavy snowfall was all but impossible.
Frustratingly Barbara and Debra Boer labored and struggled on in the deep snow. Valuable minutes lost had turned into hours. Finally, without vision or sense of direction, they succumbed to the realization that they were lost and as one of the rescue party, Ben Schierin, of Tuolumne County Search and Rescue, would later state: "they did absolutely everything wrong. They were wearing the wrong types of clothing, no hats, they didn't know the area and didn't have a map or trail guide, and they didn't let anyone know of their plans to go cross-country skiing." Yet, less than one mile away was the safety of their Jeep, where they had left extra clothing, food and emergency supplies.
Monday morning, the storm from the night before had passed leaving several feet of new untracked snow in the Pinecrest backcountry. Augi Scornaienchi, along with friends Al Barnat (a National Ski Patroller from Dodge Ridge), and Eleanor Tattersall were taking advantage of this new wonderful unblemished winter wonderland when they heard the distressed cries for help from Debra. Skiing to the sound of the call they found Debra uncontrollably shaking and having difficulty speaking. She was standing in the sun trying to warm herself and alongside was her sister Barbara, lying in an unprotected hole they had dug with their bare hands in a snow bank, she was unconscious and in a deep coma.
As later recounted by Debra, the two sisters would spend the night in separate holes they had dug with their hands in the snow. They both knew they had to stay awake and keep active until morning. Barbara aroused Debra several times after she had fallen asleep during the night. But, sometime before daylight Barbara had now succumbed to the elements, and was found by Debra the next morning in a deep comatose like sleep and moaning. Doctors on scene indicated that Barbara's core temperature had dropped to 80 degrees and that she had neither a perceptible heartbeat nor pulse. "She was literally frozen into a state of complete hibernation", as another doctor in the rescue crew would state.
As direct results of the emergency care and expedient evacuations provided by their rescuers, both Barbara and Debra are alive and well today with proud and happy families to share their tales. Debra suffered tissue damage to her feet and Barbara had some difficulties with having children that were thought to have been attributable to her severe trauma. But otherwise they are doing just fine - thanks to August Scornaienchi, Al Bernat and Eleanor Tattersall.
This is but one of many stories that can be told of the hazards that exists when traveling the winter backcountry. And it is incidents such as this that give inspiration and birth to Nordic Patrols throughout the world. Following this incident Mr. Scornaienchi would spend the next several years recruiting and training others with similar concerns and interest in forming the Pinecrest Nordic Ski Patrol in the Stanislaus National Forest. On April 30, 1982, Augi, along with Mr. Hal Beeler of the Forest Service and John Glueck of the National Ski Patrol, would sign off on the necessary documents registering the Patrol with the National Ski Patrol.
What follows over the next decade, and continues today is the ongoing strategic planning and program development within our National Organization, which strives to provide exemplary service to the public winter recreationist. We have witnessed and have been a part of the national organizations phenomenal growth. For those who remember, they will recall the days not only of Rust and Blue, but also along with our early Nords came wool and wood, knickers and Granola. Advanced first aid was the primary medical requirement until the late 80's. Membership in Nordic Patrols has grown to well over 10% of NSP's registration. The Pinecrest Patrol started out with seven registered patrollers, and since then has reached levels of well over 35-40 members. The patrol and its patrollers have been rewardingly acknowledged for outstanding contributions and performance to the public and in educational instruction within the National Ski Patrol and the U.S. Forest Service. Its many awards include Best Nordic and best Overall Patrol in the Region and the Division, Best Nordic and Best Overall Patroller in the Region and Division, Best Instructor in the Region and Division, National Patroller Appointees, Nordic Senior Certifications, and a most Distinguished U.S. Forest Service Volunteer Service Organization Award.