A Carbondale, Colorado, man who survived an avalanche that killed one of his friends, is determined to find his canine companion who he believes may have survived the incident.
"He is one of the most incredible outdoor adventure dogs that there is," Jacob Dalbey, 35, told Fox News Digital of his 7-year-old dog, Ullr.
"He's spent his entire life wandering around the mountains with me, fishing, skiing, mountain biking. He's my best friend," Dalbey said, adding that he's had Ullr since the pup was six weeks old. "He’s pretty much my everything, so I’m very desperately trying to find him."
Dalbey, who is recovering from injuries cause by the avalanche that took place on Friday, March 17, said he at first had accepted that Ullr was buried and gone. However, tracks leading away from the avalanche debris suggest that Ullr could have escaped.
Now, Dalbey hopes to bring in a scent tracking team to aid in the search, as his ability to be out in the elements for long periods of time have limited his own efforts.
Dalbey suffers from severe frostbite on his fingers and toes, as well as a broken hand that required surgery and also rhabdomyolysis – a serious and rare muscle injury.
"I've spent the last 16 days looking for him, and we've done a bunch of good work — set up trail cameras, scent stations, food stations to try to lure him back in," Dalbey said.
"But unfortunately there have been no sightings of him yet. So the next step, I think, is to try to bring this scent tracker in to help verify if any of these tracks that we have seen are his and formulate a plan from there to try to get him home."
A GoFundMe has been organized to assist in the costs of the professional trackers, who often assist in search and rescue efforts, Dalbey said.
Dalbey said that if Ullr made it out, he can survive.
"I have very high confidence," Dalbey said. "He's more than adept to surviving out there probably for the rest of his life. I know he's looking for me and [I] desperately want to find him."
Last month, on the day of the avalanche, Dalbey and two friends — all experienced backcountry travelers — were on a "scouting mission" in the Rapid Creek drainage area, near Marble, Colorado, "to figure out access for future outings," according to a report by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
Ullr, a border collie mix who is named after the Norse God of snow and winter, was along for the trip, as always.
"We were up skiing and unfortunately a large slab avalanche broke out and I was carried 2,500 feet and had deployed my airbag," Dalbey said.
The group heard a collapse that sounded "like a bomb went off." Dalbey tried to reach for his dog, the CAIC report said, but was "swept off his feet."
His friend, also on skis, was buried. Another friend, who was on a snowboard, suffered head injuries and does not recall details, the report said.
The slide sent Dalbey violently tumbling over three cliff bands.
"I was fully buried and with my right arm sticking out," Dalbey said, "but I was able to clear my airway and then proceeded to spend the next three plus hours digging myself out."
Dalbey dug himself out with a broken right hand.
"When I got out, I went and searched for my buddy and I located him and tried to dig him up," Dalbey said.
"At that point it was already getting dark, and I was hypothermic. I didn't have time to search for Ullr, and so I had to make the decision to save my own life."
Dalbey said that with frostbitten fingers, he sent an SOS on his satellite communication device.
"It was very hard to communicate on whether or not they were coming," Dalbey said. "So I started to try to get out and, eventually, I was so exhausted that I needed to dig a hole and rest and try to stay warm."
Dalbey was uncertain if search and rescue was coming, he said. His plan was to rest for a little while and then continue walking out.
"I think at about 11 o'clock or so, I received a message saying that they had a plan formulated and they had a helicopter coming and to get out in the open," Dalbey said.
"And so, I did. After 45 minutes or so of them flying around, they spotted me and picked me up at about 1 a.m."
The next day at the hospital, Dalbey’s roommate who works in search and rescue, told him that when they flew back to the scene, there were dog tracks exiting the debris leading all the way out the drainage, which is about five miles away.
"So that gave me a lot of hope and I thought we would have found him by now, but we have not," Dalbey said.
Dalbey said he is still trying to process the death of his friend who was buried in the avalanche.
"It was a very tragic thing, and I'm very sad and he was a very good friend of mine," Dalbey said.
"My focus is on recovering my dog and then I can begin to deal with the other things that I need to."
Ten people have been killed in Colorado avalanches this season, according to the CAIC.
Any person who may have spotted Ullr, who was last seen wearing his orange backpack, or anyone who has clues to his whereabouts may contact the Gunnison County Sheriff's Office (970-641-1113), Pitkin County Sheriff's Office (970-920-5300) or Garfield County Sheriff's Office (970-945-0453).