Search resumes for man missing in mountains near Gold River

Members of the Vancouver Island climbing community plan to resume searching in the mountains near Gold River today for a 64-year-old experienced climber who has been missing for more than a week.

Laurence Philippsen, of Black Creek, left home on June 29, leaving his family a detailed plan of his four-day, 40-kilometre climb in a mountain range in Strathcona Provincial Park that includes Mount Laing, Mount Filberg, Mount Cobb and Mount Haig-Brown. A 100-person search and rescue mission started on July 3 after Philippsen failed to return home the night before. The search was called off on Tuesday with no sign of Philippsen.

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His long-time climbing partner Lindsay Elms, local mountaineers and members of the Vancouver Island Section of the Alpine Club of Canada will take part in the search today and Sunday, which will focus on areas not covered by search-and-rescue teams, Elms said.

“The group has been working with search and rescue and will be covering other areas of interest,” Elms said. “With their assistance, we have located two areas that our volunteers will focus on looking for Laurence.”

Elms said it has been amazing to see the vast area that was covered.

“It is wonderful to see how the climbing community and search- and-rescue members have come together for a fellow mountaineer,” Elms said.

Search-and-rescue teams from Campbell River, Comox Valley and Nanaimo will join in the search on Sunday with five canine teams, including one from the RCMP, said Paul Berry, operations manager with Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue. Berry said the weather forecast for today looks “horrendous,” so RCMP helicopters will not be able to drop searchers on the mountain until Sunday.

Berry said the mountaineers have been advised to avoid the areas where the canine teams will be searching so as not to affect the dogs’ track.

Philippsen had signalling devices to request help if needed, but did not send a message to his family on the first night of his trip, as he had intended, Berry said. It has been 11 days since Philippsen’s last contact with his family.

“The fact that Laurence had all of the communication devices with him to be able to reach out and let us know that something was wrong and he didn’t send that communication, we certainly are fearful that he is unable to respond,” Berry said.

The only sign of Philippsen was his car, which was parked at the end of a logging road.

Elms previously told the Times Colonist that he and Philippsen have done 30 or 40 climbs together and he always knew Philippsen to be safe and meticulous in his planning. Philippsen is retired from a long career in the logging industry, which, Elms said, gave him knowledge of logging roads and the geography of the island.

Philippsen has a wife, two children and two grandchildren.

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