Tahoe man rescued after being stranded a week in deep Sierra Nevada snow

A man who became stranded in the Sierra Nevada during a major snowstorm was found alive a week later by CHP air operations.
The view from a California Highway Patrol helicopter of the area in the Sierra Nevada where a Tahoe man was rescued after being stranded for seven days. (California Highway Patrol)

A Tahoe man survived for seven days in the Sierra Nevada, hemmed in by deep snow after being led astray by his GPS.

Harland Earls, 29, visited friends in Grass Valley the weekend before the worst of a winter storm hit, according to a Sierra County Sheriff’s Office press release.

On Jan. 24, Earls headed for Truckee by way of Highway 49. Trusting his GPS when it indicated that Henness Pass Road was a shorter route, he changed direction.

Unaware that the road is not plowed and open only in the summer, he followed the device’s instructions and soon found himself stuck as the storm dumped 6 to 8 feet of snow.

After nearly a week without word from Earls, his family reported him missing to the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday and searched for him along Highway 49.

Meanwhile, Earls was holed up in his pickup truck with food, water, winter clothes and a forced-air propane heater he had brought with him, according to Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kress.

On the seventh day, Sunday, Earls ran out of food and water. He repurposed snowboards as snowshoes, hiking to a high point to get cell service and call 911, Kress said.

Though the call dropped, sheriff’s officials pinpointed Earls’ location, near Alleghany in Sierra County.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter reached Earls before Kress, who was headed there with an eight-person search-and-rescue team, and plucked him out of the snow.

“We had a nice break in the weather,” Kress said.

Rescuers from the CHP were first on the scene, Kress said. They were joined by Sierra County deputies, as well as Kress’ team.

Earls was found to be in good medical condition, authorities said.

“Earls would’ve been fine had it not been for the incoming six feet of snow,” Kress said. “He was very lucky to be well prepared.”

The storm system that trapped Earls was one in a series that caused a scenic stretch of Highway 1 near Big Sur to collapse and triggered mudslides and debris flows in Monterey and Orange counties.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.