HELENA – A cross-country skier reported missing Saturday showed up in good health on Sunday after traveling at least 50 miles and over the Continental Divide on a route that included avalanche advisories.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said 41-year-old Keith Burke, of Glasgow, Mont., is an extreme skier who started his journey Monday with a plan of skiing from the Indian Meadows trailhead to the Dearborn Creek trailhead, finishing the trip on Friday.
But several snowstorms slowed Burke’s progress, Dutton said, and when he hadn’t emerged from the backcountry by Saturday afternoon his family alerted authorities. A search and rescue team located Burke’s vehicle about 7 p.m. Saturday. Bad weather prevented a helicopter search, but searchers on snowmobiles encountered Burke about 12:30 p.m. Sunday about five miles from the trailhead as Burke made his way out.
“He was quite surprised to see them,” Dutton told the Associated Press. “He was unaware that help had been called for him.”
Dutton said Burke’s route included a lot of elevation gain and loss, so Burke likely ascended and descended thousands of feet during his trip.
“He went in with understanding that he would be spending nights in the snow in the backcountry,” Dutton said. “He was fine. He was never in any peril. It just took him longer to make the trek.”
Dutton said he wasn’t angry at having to assemble a search team for Burke.
“The family may have in their minds called early, but it’s always nice to find somebody alive and well,” Dutton said. “It was a good outcome. In this case the gentleman was well-prepared.”