Ghost saved his life, says skier who was lost

March 03, 1993|By McClatchy News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- All Greg Bernardo remembers is a hazy figure through the fog and snow.

Her name was Irene and she was friendly, and Mr. Bernardo is certain she saved his life. When she disappeared in the thick blackness of a winter night, he realized she was a figment of his imagination.

"I remember dark hair, and the name Irene sticks in my mind," the 40-year-old expert skier said Monday, still a little amazed at the apparition that prodded him to build a snow cave and rest when he was lost.

Irene was one of a half-dozen apparitions who drifted alongside Mr. Bernardo on his three-day ordeal last week, staying beside him as he fought through snow, and talking to him in some cases. Famished and nearing collapse, he was rescued last Thursday.

From the first night, Mr. Bernardo said he knew he must keep going to stay alive, forcing the blood through his veins to stay warm. Irene helped.

Mr. Bernardo wonders whether his guide could have been a ghost from the Donner Party, many of whom met their deaths during the winter of 1846-47 as they migrated to California. The main Donner camp was about 12 miles east of the canyon where Mr. Bernardo was lost.

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