David Sneddon

OREM — Family members searching for the Utah man and Brigham Young University student considered missing in China have tracked him to Tibet.

The last known sign of David Sneddon, 24, was a backpack he left with an innkeeper in Qaiotou in western China on Aug. 10. But his father, Roy, and brothers Michael and James uncovered additional clues to his whereabouts as they retraced his steps this week through Tiger Leaping Gorge and beyond.

The news has family members feeling confident Sneddon, who is from Providence, Cache County, is alive.

"This has been amazing," family spokesman Reed Peterson said. "All the thought was that he was somewhere in the gorge, that maybe he got hurt. Now they have him out of the gorge, and the question is, 'What could have happened?'"

Sneddon apparently took only a fanny pack filled with a Book of Mormon, camera, toothbrush and extra shirt and headed into treacherous Tiger Leaping Gorge. None of his family or friends has heard from him since, including professors and students who expected the senior back for BYU classes this semester.

Sneddon, who served an LDS mission in Korea and was majoring in Chinese, spent the summer in Beijing studying Mandarin at a university.

Armed with four fresh photos of Sneddon from his backpack, Sneddon's father and brothers set out Monday to hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge. In e-mails sent to Peterson and others and posted at www.multiling.com/finddavid/, the three men say they found a Naxi guide named Woolian, who positively identified Sneddon from the photographs as a man he met about a month ago while leading a group through the gorge.

On Tuesday, the family search party reached the end of the gorge and found two women who work at a guesthouse who again identified Sneddon from the pictures.

Since Sneddon still would have had three or four days until he was to catch a flight in Kunming, his father and brothers guessed he would have used the time to tour the area and chose to search in Haba.

Wearing placards on their shirts bearing Sneddon's Beijing student ID photo and the Chinese words "missing trekker," the men found a shopkeeper who said Sneddon bought two biscuits from him. The man said Sneddon was traveling with a young Chinese woman.

The search continued to the Tibetan town of Shangri-La on Wednesday, where the placards drew a lot of attention but no information. However, on Thursday, the small search party found a Korean cafe where an employee remembered Sneddon visiting two or three times.

"She added that there was no way this man could be lost in China," Roy Sneddon and his sons wrote in their e-mail. "He was too capable, too knowledgeable about the culture and language to be lost."

A woman from the cafe next door also remembered Sneddon from his pictures and mentioned the Chinese woman with him.

The family now believes Sneddon traveled through the gorge in one day and then went on to Haba and then Shangri-La, arriving on Aug. 12.

They think he planned to take a bus back to Qiaotou on Aug. 13 to get his backpack, which had his plane tickets, continue to Kunming on Aug. 14 and fly to Beijing on Aug. 15.

"We do not believe David fell victim to bandits as all the government officials and local people report there is absolutely no danger to foreigners from bandits or robbers," the men wrote.

E-MAIL: twalch@desnews.com