Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue is asking people to stay out of the high back country after a group of experienced hikers were rescued from Golden Ears Provincial Park on Monday morning.
Search and rescue received a call from the Ridge Meadows RCMP at around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30, to rescue the four stranded hikers at the base of Edge Peak.
The students from out-of-province had made their way up the mountain on Saturday.
Rick Laing, manager of the local search and rescue team, said the weather was good at that time. The hikers, whom he estimated to be in their mid-20’s, were planning on camping and had anticipated eight centimetres of snow overnight. They were well prepared for that, he said.
However, about 20 cm of snow fell overnight into Sunday and, said Laing, the temperature dropped to about -9 C. Then one of the hikers triggered a small avalanche that made them fearful of continueing. That was when they used their cellphone to call for help.
“They were high enough up that they had really good cell contact for the most part and when we couldn’t talk directly we were able to text and keep up to date,” explained Laing, adding that the group also had extra battery packs for their cell phones.
“They seemed to be well prepared,” said Laing.
But, cloud cover had descended over the mountain before they could launch a helicopter. So they told the hikers to stay put and settle down for another night on the mountain and that they would try to get them in the morning.
Overnight another 40 to 60 cm of snow fell on top of them, said Laing.
A team of two rescuers went up in the helicopter at around 7:30 a.m. and they were able to get everybody off the mountain by 10:30 a.m., said Laing.
“In spite of the weather and the conditions, it was a relatively straightforward rescue,” noted Laing. “We took two out at a time.”
They flew to the spot where the hikers were, and dropped off the rescuers who stayed with two of the stranded hikers while the first two were flown off the mountain. Then the helicopter went back and flew the second two hikers off the mountain. Finally the helicopter went back to pick up the rescuers.
In total, 17 members of search and rescue were involved in the mission.
“With all that snow and the temperature, they were very damp and cold in the tent this morning,” said Laing.
“It was pretty critical that we got them off the mountain today,” he said, adding that the hikers were in good condition when they reached safety, just really cold.
Laing said that given the weather conditions and the amount of snow that fell overnight the avalanche risk went from moderate on Saturday to considerable and then extreme by Sunday.
“It’s new wet snow on a hard crusty base, so it hasn’t been able to bond. So the odds of human triggered, or even an actual triggered avalanche are considerable to extreme. So people really need to stay out of the high back country area.”
Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue credits Talon Helicopters for their judgement and skill getting everyone off the mountain safely and also Coquitlam Search and Rescue for providing a Class D Fixed Line Rapid Intervention Team just in case landing the helicopter close to the subjects wasn’t going to be possible.
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