On Monday night NSR was activated by West Vancouver Police for two missing hikers near Cypress Mountain. The two hikers (visitors to Vancouver) were traveling with a larger group when they got separated and lost the trail. When the larger group reached the parking lot, they realized they were missing the two and called police.
NSR deployed ground teams onto the Howe Sound Crest trail Monday night and began a full scale SAR opreation. The HSC trail is a long and grueling hike from Cypress Mountain. Members used various sound and light attraction methods to get the subjects attention. NSR members were joined by a limited activation of Lions Bay Search and Rescue, who began to check off the Lions Bay side of the trail network. However, due to limited resources, LBSAR were forced to pull out of the search at first light.
Given that the subjects were not located as first light approached, two helicopters were requested to move manpower and resources to high probability areas. Aircraft from both Talon Helicopters and Valley Helicopters arrived at staging shortly after sunrise. The crews from the night before were subsequently picked up, and the fresh crews put into the field. Furthermore, NSR requested mutual aid and was joined by members from Coquitlam SAR and Ridge Meadows SAR in the morning.
As the morning SAR operation was just ramping up, the subjects made their own way out to Lions Bay and members were stood down.
After interviewing the subjects, it became readily apparent that there are a few learning experiences for everyone to take from this call:
Stay with your group and set your pace by the slowest person in the group
Make sure you have the 10 essentials (ESPECIALLY for hikes like the Lions)
Make sure you have appropriate clothing/footwear. Running shoes do not cut it on alpine hikes.
If you become lost, stay put and wait for rescue. It is extremely hard to find a moving target. This lengthens the call and puts the rescuers at greater risk. Furthermore, in Coastal Terrain, if you keep going downhill chances are you will encounter steeper terrain and waterfalls where the chance of injury/death are extremely high. (See Avoid Getting Lost)
Carry a cellphone or other communications device to signal for help if something goes wrong (doesn’t replace proper trip planning, telling someone where you are going, and carrying the 10 essentials)
We all make mistakes, and these situations pose excellent situations to learn and improve our own safety. Heeding this basic safety advice may save your life…or prevent a full scale SAR response.