Two Bellingham men who vanished while snowboarding nearly two months ago remain officially missing, Whatcom County sheriff’s officials said this week.
“We presume (they are) deceased,” said sheriff’s Deputy Mark Jilk, who coordinates wilderness search and rescue operations.
Jake Amancio, 22, and Drew Lenz, 20, were reported overdue by a roommate on the afternoon of Nov. 12 when they didn’t return from a day of backcountry snowboarding in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
“We will be searching again in summer once the snow melts down. There is no formal declaration until then, most likely,” Jilk said.
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Mt. Baker Ski Area workers found Lenz’s abandoned truck in the upper parking lot Heather Meadows – where heavy snowfall closes Mount Baker Highway for the winter.
A search began at dawn Nov. 13.
Teams of some 30 people included WCSO rescue personnel, U.S. Border Patrol rescue teams, and trained search and rescue volunteers including Bellingham Mountain Rescue.
Jilk said Nov. 20 that worsening snow and avalanche conditions made continued search operations too dangerous.
“The search is suspended at this time,” Jilk said, adding that “the areas that we have left to search would be a recovery.”
Several feet of snow fell in the Mount Baker wilderness during storms that hit the North Cascades the weekend the men disappeared and continued over the next few days, hampering search operations.
Mt. Baker Ski Area reported a 33-inch base on Nov. 14 at Heather Meadows, and National Weather meteorologists were forecasting as much as three feet of additional snow that week.
Avalanche danger remained high in the rugged terrain around Heather Meadows, including Table Mountain, Herman Saddle and Mazama Bowl where the search was focused. Other areas were searched, including Swift Creek drainage toward Baker Lake below Artist Point.
Most family members of the two men were unavailable to immediately comment. Amanico’s mother, Lisa Correll Amanico, updated her Facebook page in December to feature a family photo.
Friends, family members and others distributed fliers and conducted their own searches in the days that followed the men’s disappearance.
A GoFundMe page raised $37,501. Family members said they used some of the money to buy backcountry equipment for private searches and for food and lodging for out-of-town relatives who came to help.
Drew Lenz’s cousin Dylan Glaser hoped that others could learn from the incident.
“Finding them could give us clues of what happened but we’ll never know what happened for sure,” Glaser said via email. “The tragic incident should remind all backcountry users to have proper training (i.e. first aid/CPR, avalanche, survival), a trip plan, and proper equipment with the knowledge of how to use it.”