ASHLAND, Ore. -- Search and rescue teams from all around the area converged in Ashland to look for missing snowboarder Eli Kepsel. The team from Klamath found him Tuesday as he was walking, trying to find his way out of the wilderness.
"We were able to find at mid-day yesterday what we were pretty sure was his tracks going out of the ski area," explained Sergeant Shaw Richards with the Jackson County Sheriff's office. "Immediately ski patrols and search and rescue got on those tracks and they followed them for about 10 1/2 hours down through the drainages."
Eli, however, wasn't heading in a straight line. "He was zig-zagging back and forth and you could tell he was sampling different high spots and drainages trying to get his bearings," detailed Richards. "But it's just very thick up there and steep. So it's hard to know where you're at."
Eli's persistence paid off when he stumbled upon the Klamath County Sheriff's Department Search & Rescue Team.
"It's incredible!" exclaimed Matthew Marshall. "Knowing he's been out there for two nights. Often times we think worst case scenario in these instances. And this was a holiday miracle if you want to call it that."
Eli's family and friends were on scene as he was taken off the mountain in an ambulance. Cameron Johnson says he and Eli have been best friends since second grade. He says the last two days of uncertainty had been hard.
"No one's been able to sleep really since we've heard," explained Johnson. "So now we'll actually rest easy knowing he's safe and sound and back in loving arms."
Now, that cloud has lifted.
"He's in surprisingly good shape for being out there for two nights and putting 20 or 30 miles on, at least," said Richards" "He walked a bunch in that 2 days."
It's an observation his rescuer Matthew Marshall seconds.
"He's doing great," observed Marshall. "He said he recently moved up here from Arizona. He'd snowboarded Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor area before. But this was his first time at Mt. Ashland. And I think he'll remember this one for a while."
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