On the 17th of November police recovered the bodies of brothers Scott and Paul Beardsmore, 26 and 24, Dean Pincini, 25 and Tim Friend, 25 from a snow-cave about a mile from the boundary of the Thredbo Resort in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.
The group had left the resort for a three day backcountry trip around 9.30am on August 7, 1999 and hadn’t been sighted since.
Soon after setting out, one of the biggest blizzards of the season set in for three days, dumping over two feet of snow on the area. Police were alerted when the riders failed to return on August 9 and one of Australia’s largest searches followed over the next 15 days.
Tragically none of the riders were found until this week when a Navy helicopter on a search and rescue training flight spotted two holes in a snowdrift.
The bodies of all four men were found still in their sleeping bags within a three meter square snowcave. Early theories are that they had built the cave not long after leaving resort boundaries as a shelter from the blizzard. Tragically it seems that the huge dump had cut off the cave’s entrance and ventilation holes and all four men had suffocated in their sleep.
The four snowboarders were all experienced backcountry travellers, having spent time in North America and hiking in Australia. Pointing fingers and appointing blame after a tragedy like this is useless and only continues the negativity. But if we take a look at what possibly went wrong then maybe we can get a very small positive from the situation. One very important thing to note, a reliable weather forecast is the first thing you should carry on a backcountry trip.
Snowboarding isn’t meant to be confined to the sanitised slopes of resorts. Hopefully the death of four fellow snowboarders doesn’t go in vain and each of us is a little more alert of every move we make when we’re out there, where-ever in the world we are.