UPDATED: After a long Easter weekend with remarkably few accidents, Red Cross search and rescue crews were suddenly confronted with an emergency on Monday: Three skiers who failed to return as agreed from a trek in Modalen, western Norway, were officially considered missing but later could report they’d found shelter in a storm.
The skiers were supposed to return from the trek to a hytte (cabin) in the mountains of Stølsheimen, Hordaland County, Sunday evening but no one had heard from them since before the weekend. Bad weather hindered search efforts during the night and had also stranded the three skiers, who made it to the hytte but had to stay there for the night with no mobile phone coverage.
“We received a report Sunday night that three people hadn’t returned at an agreed time after a trek in the mountains,” Terje Magnussen, operations leader of the Hordaland Police District, told newspaper Bergens Tidende. They were expected back from the trip by 4pm on Sunday afternoon.
Red Cross crews tried but failed to get to the hytte themselves during the night because of the bad weather. Search efforts were described by Hårvard Hongve Helle of the Red Cross in Hordaland as “difficult, and communications are bad even with a satellite telephone. The police in Hordaland are coordinating the search operation. Some of our people had to return because of the difficult conditions.”
Only rescue operation during Easter
Helle confirmed that the search was the only rescue operation mounted during the Easter holidays, which otherwise were characterized in many areas by sunny weather and clear skies. Thousands of Red Cross volunteers and search and rescue crews were standing by as usual during the entire week-long holiday period, during which many Norwegians head for the high country for end-of-season ski trips.
The bad weather also hindered use of a helicopter in the Hordaland rescue operation. “We sent out a helicopter at around 4am, but it had to return because of poor visibility and difficult flying conditions,” Eirik Walle of the search and rescue center Hovedredningssentralen told state broadcaster NRK.
The three skiers had headed for the cabin known as Norddalshytten. operated by the local Bergen og Hordaland Turlag. It’s located above timberline in the Stølsheimen area and is a self-service cabin but stocked with food, cooking equipment and other supplies. It’s generally considered accessible year-round and the three made it there but had no chance of returning to Modalen.
They spent the night at the cabin and finally managed to send a text message to family members. By late morning, the rescue center could confirm that the skiers had made it back down the mountain and were in good shape.