SAR Finds Missing Snowboarder Alive *Final Update*
Update 12/11/18 at 3:00 p.m. (Final) –
ASHLAND, Ore. – A Medford man who spent two nights in the elements on Mt. Ashland was found alive Tuesday morning. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) search and rescue (SAR) officials say snowboarder Eli Kepsel, 27, was cold but in good spirits when rescuers found him just before 10:30 a.m. on December 11, 2018.
“This is the best outcome we could have hoped for,” said JCSO Sergeant Shawn Richards.
A SAR team from Klamath County was patrolling US Forest Service Road 2060 north of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area when Kepsel appeared from the hillside above the road. Kepsel was cold and hungry, but he was able to walk and talk to rescuers.
The SAR team provided Kepsel with food and water and brought him to a waiting ambulance operated by Ashland Fire & Rescue. Kepsel was reunited with his parents, and then transported to Rogue Regional Medical Center to be evaluated for hypothermia.
Kepsel’s mother reported him missing to JCSO on Monday, December 10, when he didn’t return from a snowboarding trip the day before. Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol members checked the ski area parking lot and found Kepsel’s vehicle was still parked there. They began searching for Kepsel while SAR was activated.
Deputies learned the last confirmed sighting of Kepsel was Sunday afternoon at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. Search teams located some tracks in the snow beyond the boundary of the ski area, but it was not immediately known whether Kepsel made those tracks.
One particular set of tracks in the snow provided searchers with Kepsel’s likely direction of travel. But as the tracks descended in elevation, a lack of snow made them more difficult to follow.
The search effort was mainly conducted on the ground with teams of hikers scouring likely travel routes through the forested terrain. Brim Aviation provided air support on both days, searching by helicopter despite less than favorable weather conditions. There is no cell phone service on the back side of Mount Ashland, which limits the use of technology to locate people who go missing there.
Kepsel would later tell rescuers that he heard sounds made by searchers, including sirens and a helicopter, but he was disoriented and he was not able to signal back. Kepsel was not prepared to spend the night in the backcountry. He said he sheltered beneath the tree canopy each night.
Sergeant Shawn Richards said a search effort of this scale would not have been possible without help from other agencies.
“Just as they can count on us to help, we count on them to be ready and able to come here when we have a difficult search,” said Richards.
JCSO received assistance from search and rescue personnel from the following counties: Josephine, Klamath, Douglas, and Siskiyou (Calif.). Chaplains from Southern Oregon Public Safety Chaplains were on hand to support volunteers and Kepsel’s family members throughout the search.
SAR officials recently offered some tips for safety during winter recreation. The article can be found on the JCSO website: https://jacksoncountyor.org/sheriff/News/sar-offers-tips-for-snow-safety-photo .
Update 12/11/18 at 10:45 a.m.
SAR has located missing snowboarder Eli Kepsel alive. He is speaking with rescuers and is en route to receive medical attention for mild hypothermia. More information regarding the search and rescue effort will be released later today.
Update 12/11/18 at 9:30 a.m.
ASHLAND, Ore. - Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) search and rescue (SAR) teams continue the search for the missing snowboarder on Mt. Ashland Tuesday morning. The search effort was scaled-back overnight for safety reasons, but teams were able to checked likely travel routes and roadways looking for any sign of Eli Kepsel.
The last confirmed sighting of Kepsel was Sunday afternoon at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. Search teams have located some tracks in the snow beyond the boundary of the ski area, but it is not known whether Kepsel made those tracks. Because of the relatively high snow level, much of the ground in the search area is bare, presenting fewer opportunities for visual tracking.
No further information is available at this time.
Original release, 12/10/18:
ASHLAND, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) search and rescue (SAR) teams are searching for a missing snowboarder. Eli Kepsel, 27, went to Mt. Ashland on Sunday morning and has not returned.
On Monday, December 10, 2018, at 9:26 a.m., a family member called to report Kepsel was missing. Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol members found Kepsel’s vehicle was still parked at the ski area.
SAR staff and volunteers are actively checking likely routes on the mountain beyond the ski area. SAR staff would like to hear from anyone who may have seen Kepsel since Sunday morning in order to help focus the search.
Kepsel’s snowboard has a blue bottom and his coat is a bright yellow-green color. He is five feet, nine inches tall and weighs 165 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes.
If you have information that can aid searchers, please call dispatch at (541) 776-7206. Refer to case #18-25711.