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Hiker stranded in snowstorm on Mount Charleston rescued

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Aida Ahmed

Gregory Rudowsky meets with Metro Police search and rescue Officer Jim Rogan after his Friday morning rescue from Mount Charleston.

Updated Friday, Dec. 2, 2011 | 3:07 p.m.

Hiker rescued on Mount Charleston

KSNV coverage of Metro Police rescue of Canadian hiker Gregory Rudowsky and his dog, Tiki, after they were stranded overnight on Mount Charleston, Dec. 2, 2011.

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Gregory Rudowsky and his dog, Tiki, stand outside Metro Police's Search and Rescue headquarters after the two were rescued by a helicopter from Mount Charleston, where they spent a night in four feet of snow.

A Canadian hiker rescued today after being stranded in a snowstorm on Mount Charleston said he called for help because he was afraid of getting lost if he tried to make it down alone.

The hiker, Gregory Rudowsky, and his dog, Tiki, were lifted off the mountain via helicopter by a Metro Police search and rescue team.

Rudowsky, an experienced hiker, said he walked up the Bonanza Trail in Lee Canyon on Wednesday with plans to camp overnight and hike out Thursday morning. But when he woke up Thursday, a winter storm had already dumped two feet of snow on the ground, he said.

Police were alerted at 8:34 a.m. Thursday that the hiker and his dog were stranded when he used an emergency locator — a SPOT Personal Tracker — to send a short text message, Metro spokesman Bill Cassell said.

Rudowsky, who said he checked the weather for Las Vegas but not Mount Charleston before embarking on his hike, said he knew he only had a two-mile hike to get off the mountain but was afraid of getting lost.

“The trail isn’t particularly well-marked. You only see it where the footprints are and it was completely snowed in,” he said.

A Metro search and rescue team was dispatched Thursday, but rescue efforts were suspended that evening because of the hazardous weather conditions.

Rudowsky let police know that he would be able to make it through the night, but would need help getting out today. By Thursday night, he said, at least four feet of snow had accumulated.

He said he had a tent and sleeping bags for him and his dog and never got cold, despite conditions on the mountain.

Rudowsky and his dog were pulled onto the hovering helicopter about 11 a.m. and taken to the North Las Vegas Airport.

Sgt. Gavin Vesp, who oversees the search and rescue team, said the SPOT device turned what could have been a two-day search into just a couple hours.

“If he hadn’t had that device it would have been extremely difficult to nearly impossible to find him, particularly in the weather conditions that we had yesterday,” Vesp said. “The plan today was..fly in and be able to hoist him out, and that’s what we were able to do.”

Cloud coverage, several feet of snow and the cold hampered Thursday’s rescue efforts.

“We got probably within two and a half miles of him yesterday on foot and it was just too extreme with the snow that was coming down, so we had to turn around and come back,” said search and rescue officer Jim Rogan.

He said it was 18 degrees when the team went up in a helicopter Friday morning to search for Rudowsky, who was spotted waving at them from a treeline about 9,600 feet up the mountain in waist-deep snow.

“He was actually in the best shape that somebody could be in those kind of conditions,” Rogan said. “He had the proper equipment, he had the proper mind-set to stay with his tent...and rely on the locator he had.”

Rogan said a person as prepared as Rudowsky could have lasted up to a week on the mountain. He warned that even experienced hikers should be hiking within their own limits and bring the proper equipment.

“Don’t come up ill-prepared,” Rogan said. “You should always be prepared to be out in whatever elements you’re in for 24 hours.”

Rudowsky said it was great to finally see the helicopter coming to pick him up and that he would climb the mountain again as long as he didn’t have to bother the rescue team again.

“All my gear is up there,” Rudowsky said. “I may have to go back and get it.”

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