On Friday night at approximately 10:oo pm, North Shore Rescue was activated by the North Vancouver RCMP for a missing hiker on Mount Seymour. A 73 year old male had departed for a hike earlier in the day, leaving his car on Indian River Road in North Vancouver. His intention had been to follow the trail system up the mountain, and be back by dark. Unfortunately, while hiking, he became disoriented and lost the trail.
Doing the right thing, that evening, the male hiker contacted his son via text message to let him know he had become lost and was going to “hunker down for the night.” I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep put after you become lost. In this case, it may have saved the hikers life, and made our jobs much easier. Unfortunately, the cell phone was an older phone, and with a draining battery, the police and SAR were unable to retrieve a location from it & only sporadic text messages were received.
As an aside note, hikers should never count on their cell phones (or “trailhead selfies” – see why tailhead selfies are potentially dangerous) to alert family/friends/SAR. You do not always have a signal, cellphones can get wet, and batteries drain. ALWAYS tell someone responsible where you are going and when to expect you back, and carry the 10 essentials. (more info here)
With bad weather, including rain and pea soup fog, a ground search and rescue operation was launched. NSR members were deployed Friday night from the top and bottom of the mountain to bracket the likely trail systems. Our off-road Jeep was deployed to get members to the De Pencier Bluffs area of Mount Seymour. One member noted that at points, visibility was so bad, a member had to walk in front of the vehicle to find the road. This was a full night time search in inclement weather.
Planning ahead, NSR activated Talon Helicopters for morning air support, and requested Lions Bay SAR and Coquitlam SAR for additional resources on mutual aid. With the dawn, searchers were faced with improving weather conditions, but the alpine remained cloaked in cloud. The NSR air support team began searching lower elevation areas and drainages, while the bolstered ground teams continued the process of checking off each trail of the intricate eastern lower Seymour trail system. This included sending members out the, little known, and difficult Indian Arm Crest Trail.
At approximately 9:30 am on Saturday, a NSR field team, led by member Guy Trotter located the subject near Percy Lake in good condition. After assessing the subject and rehydrating, the subject was hiked out to safety by the NSR field team. By noon, all searchers were out of the field and on their way home for much needed rest.
In this case, the subject was relatively well prepared with the 10 essentials, and made the correct choice to hunker down for the night. However, in the morning, he was found while attempting to hike out on his own. Normally, this is not ideal where SAR has been activated. It is best to stay put, and let SAR find you. A moving target can leave the search area, end up more lost, or potentially end up in increasingly technical terrain where a fatal fall becomes more likely. Always:
Tell someone where you are going,
leave a trip plan including when to expect you back,
carry the 10 essentials,
call for help early if you are in distress (we can often help get you back on route via cellphone & it is much safer for us to do a helicopter rescue during the daylight hours),
wear footwear that has ankle support and good sole, and
ultimately stay put if you get lost.