UPDATE: A Cumberland hiker who did not return to his Strathcona Park campsite after reaching the summit of Mount Albert Edward late Wednesday afternoon has been found.
The family of 50-year-old Murray Naswell had been concerned about his lack of preparedness for the back country, Paul Berry, search commander for the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue, said Sunday.
Naswell entered Strathcona Park on Tuesday and camped at Kwai Lake. On Wednesday, he began an ascent of Mount Albert Edward with another couple, who had also camped at the lake.
“They found the going too difficult and turned around and came back. He continued on up,” said Berry. “We know he reached the summit late afternoon, because he did leave a note at the summit register saying he was there at 5:15 p.m. on July 3.”
The register is in a waterproof container inside a rock cairn. People can sign in and leave a note, he explained.
But search crews found Naswell had left other identification, said Berry.
When he did not return to his campsite Wednesday night or Thursday morning, the couple became concerned and spoke to the park contractor.
“The contractor contacted the RCMP, who activated our team to begin an investigation and possibly a search,” said Berry.
His family told the search crew that Naswell was familiar with the area and often went up on his own, and they would not consider him overdue until late Friday night.
“So at that point, the active search was stood down, but both the RCMP and our team continued the investigation,” said Berry.
Naswell’s vehicle was found at Raven’s Lodge, the Nordic centre at Mount Washington. Naswell’s tent, sleeping bag and a lot of his equipment were found at Kwai Lake. A search crew went to the summit of Mount Albert Edward to confirm the identification and notes he had left on the summit, said Berry.
Weather conditions have made the search difficult. Crews are encountering rain, heavy cloud cover and fog, he said. “We’ve not been able to insert teams up onto the high alpine by helicopter.”
On Sunday, RCMP officers with dogs joined the search crews in the Paradise Meadows-Kwai Lake areas. Teams from Campbell River Search and Rescue are approaching from the west, looking into trails and where people often get lost coming down from Mount Albert Edward, said Berry.
Every search and rescue team on Vancouver Island and teams from Pemberton to Chilliwack were asked to join the search for Naswell on Monday, said Berry.
“We have a number of large-scale searches in this area and we’re pretty aware that when people do go missing, it ramps up to a very large-scale search very quickly.”
Everyone joining the search on Monday was told to be prepared to be in the field 24 to 36 hours because they would be hiking in, searching and hiking out, said Berry.
A command centre was set up at the Mountain Centre at Mount Washington across from Raven’s Lodge.
Mount Albert Edward is the sixth highest peak on Vancouver Island. With an elevation of 2,093 metres, it is a popular destination for summer hikers.