California Man Survives a Week Trapped in Deep Snowbank

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A drive home turns into a fight for survival. A California man spent a week trapped in his car on an isolated snowy road in the Sierra Nevada.

What should have been a simple drive almost became deadly. The man’s GPS navigation system led him to a rarely used mountain road. Unfortunately for 29-year-old Harland Earls, the road becomes dangerous during the winter months. Earls’ car soon became trapped in deep snow on the unplowed road.

It sounds like the beginning of a horror movie. And in many ways it was. Earls had to survive for a week out in frigid temperatures and icy conditions until help arrived. According to his mother, Earls survived on his “tenacity, resourcefulness, and survival skills.”

“He didn’t lose hope, he would not give up. He said he couldn’t do that to his family,” his mother Julie Earls told AP News.

The California Man Got Stuck in the Snow

Earls was visiting friends and was on his way home when he got stuck on a road in the Tahoe National Forest. A severe winter storm closed Interstate 80, the main route Earls would have taken to his friends’ house. The California man decided to take State Route 49. But his GPS rerouted him to Henness Pass Road, where he got stuck.

After getting trapped, the storm trapped Earls in six to eight feet of snow on the road. Earls quickly tried to use his survival skills to free his vehicle. First, Earle used a chainsaw and rope to try to turn the vehicle free. But Earls failed to free his vehicle. Additionally, both his clothes and cellphone got went during the process.

Food-wise, Earls had two cans of beans, some sausage, and bread in his car, which he rationed. He also used a propane heater to melt snow into drinking water. Rather than use up all of the propane, he duct taped his pants to his boots and tried to huddle in the camper bed on his truck.

To dry out his phone and get help, Earls put it in a plastic bag with both spaghetti noodles and a hand warmer. He also tried to flag down a passing helicopter by burning items from his truck. But the helicopter failed to notice the smoke signal. Finally, Earls fashioned snowboards to his feet and hiked four miles to a vantage point.

He managed to get a signal and call emergency services. Unfortunately, the call failed. But emergency services managed to get his GPS location. After seven days in the elements, Earls was finally rescued.

The California man showed true Outsider spirit, using everything at his disposal to survive. Here’s another gritty story of survival about an Outsider you might enjoy.