MOUNTAIN CITY, Nev. – A Canadian man whose remains were found 18 months after he and his wife got stranded in their van in Nevada’s wilderness had hiked within six miles of town when the battery likely failed on the GPS that steered them the wrong way in the first place, and he veered off course into heavy mountain snow.
Two hunters found the remains of Albert Chretien, 59, of British Columbia, over the weekend on a mountainside in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest near the Nevada-Idaho line, Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts confirmed on Monday.
Albert Chretien was about six miles from where he left his wife, Rita, then 56, and vehicle in search of help in March 2011. She was rescued after 48 days, surviving primarily on stream water and trail mix in one of the most remote areas in the Lower 48 states.
The discovery on Saturday shows Albert Chretien had hiked more than nine miles on his winding route and was within six miles of Mountain City when the GPS battery probably died and his path began to angle too far north, Deputy David Prall told the Associated Press.
The GPS was the type made for a car with a battery that can’t simply be replaced, he said, and Chretien ended up on a route a mile north of where he intended to be, about three-quarters of a mile east of the summit of Merritt Mountain, Prall said.
“Once he lost the ability to use that GPS, due to the snowdrifts, he couldn’t tell where the road was. He did a lot of unnecessary climbing. He was heading literally for the summit of the mountain,” Prall told AP by telephone Monday.
If he had been able to keep his bearings, Prall said, there’s a decent chance he might have made it to the town on state Route 225 south of Owyhee.
“If he stayed on course, he would have been on the downhill side of his trip,” Prall said.
“There’s no way to speculate whether he would have made it, but he demonstrated by where he made it to it was far beyond what he was equipped for. This man had tremendous courage and inner strength to get where he was,” he said.
Prall said the Chretien family had asked not to be disturbed by the media. He said they were keeping secret the exact location of the discovery of the remains to keep it private for family visits.
A public memorial was held for Chretien in April in his hometown of Penticton, B.C.