It was there, he said, that he came up with the idea of building a snow cave, which he constructed using a snow shovel to dig a hole in the ground about seven-feet deep, more than three-feet wide and about seven feet in length. He used his hands to build a door with a hole underneath for ventilation and also shelves for his belongings. He said the moisture from his breath helped create a protective sheet of ice within the cave, keeping him warm. As the hours passed, he said he hunkered down, and steeled himself for a night inside the cave.
Robert said he also left the snowmobile in a visible area in the meadow where rescuers or a helicopter could see it.
The idea for the cave, he said, came from “improvising in the heat of the moment,” and he had also honed his cave-making skills while playing in the snow by his home, which is near 100 Mile House, a sleepy former mill town in British Columbia that was once a fur-trading station.
His instinct to build a shelter was all the more urgent since he had only half a ham sandwich and he worried his phone, which didn’t have a signal, would run out of power.
“It took me about two hours to build it,” he said. “I was shivering, so I couldn’t sleep. But I was confident that my structure would allow me to survive. I also thought I would be rescued and was more bored than scared.”
His mother, Denise Waldner, an accountant originally from Zurich, Switzerland, said that she had been overcome by anxiety, fearful that he had been in a snowmobile wreck or had crashed into a tree. “Next time he will have a tarp, a fire-starter and a lot more food,” she said in an interview.
At 4 p.m., after the teenager’s family realized he was missing, they spent two hours searching for him, before calling the search-and-rescue team, who sped to the snowmobiling trail.