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Four weekend calls kick off North Shore Rescue's busy summer season

Going for a hike in the mountains? It's a critical time to make sure you are prepared, North Shore Rescue says.
Dam Mountain rescue Jan 26 web
North Shore Rescue members carry out a helicopter extraction from the North Vancouver backcountry, Jan. 26, 2021. The team is now preparing for a busy summer season.

A previous version of this article erroneously said the rescue subject was visiting from Poland. He is a Canadian citizen and longtime resident. The article has been corrected.

Summer weather has finally arrived and North Shore Rescue’s volunteers are clearing their weekend schedules.

The team was called out four times over the sunny weekend, each time for someone requiring a helicopter rescue, said search manager Jim Loree.

On Saturday (June 25), a woman hiking the Lynn Headwaters Trail suffered an ankle injury near Norvan Falls and had to be helped to a nearby landing pad. North Shore Rescue members assisted their counterparts with Lions Bay Search and Rescue twice on Saturday as well. In one instance, a woman and her dog slipped down a steep slope, leaving them stranded on a cliff ledge. Another woman got off trail and wound up in a steep drainage, requiring a long-line rescue to get out.

The most serious call came Sunday afternoon after North Vancouver RCMP alerted the team to a hiker activating his emergency beacon in Wickenden Creek, between Lynn Headwaters and Goat Mountain. The man had taken a serious fall and was left with a broken arm, among other injuries.

“It looked like he'd fallen a good 12 vertical feet, and then would have tumbled a bit once he landed,” Loree said. “He had numerous other scrapes and bruises and his shorts were in tatters, so he wasn't looking super great…. He wasn't going to be hiking out of there without some help.”

It is a highly challenging route – more of a scramble than a trail, Loree said. Even with GPS co-ordinates coming from the satellite beacon, it was still very difficult to spot the man, Loree said. Eventually they winched a rescuer down to the site, packaged the hiker in a harness and flew back to the nearest search and rescue station where an ambulance was waiting.

The hiker, a man in his 40s, was well equipped and experienced, although he was going it alone, which North Shore Rescue never recommends.

After a relatively quiet spring, thanks to bad weather keeping people indoors, Loree said the team is now bracing for a busy summer.

“Now that it's sunny, the floodgates have opened that everybody wants to rush out into the backcountry and the wilderness,” he said. “We expected this going into the weekend. Sure enough, multiple calls. As this weather continues, it’ll definitely be busy as the summer goes on.”

That means everyone planning to go for a hike in the mountains needs to be make sure they are prepared and have the right gear, Loree said.

“Do extensive research on where you're going, how long it's going to take, how strenuous it is. Evaluate your fitness level. Look at the time of day, all those factors. Build in a bit of buffer time, because sometimes things take longer than you think,” he said.

Even though it's hot at sea level, winter snow remains at higher elevations around the backcountry.

When you know you need help, don’t go bushwhacking trying to find your way back to the trail, Loree said. Call 911 right away.

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