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Rescuing people in need can't compete with annual barbie

After one of the busiest summer search and rescue seasons on record for the team, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue  team members and family were just sitting down to relax Wednesday at their annual barbecue.

Suddenly, they were contacted by Victoria’s Emergency Co-ordination Centre and advised of a lone hiker, from Victoria, and her dog who were lost in Strathcona Park after a solo hike to Mount Albert Edward.

Team members abandoned the barbecue and with light failing fast, departed for the mountain.

One of two teams was met by helicopter at the base of Mount Washington and conducted a rapid air search but with only 15 minutes of flight time until dark were unable to locate the subject and were inserted at the ranger cabin near Hairtrigger Lake and assigned to search three likely locations.

A second team began the long hike in the dark towards Mount Albert Edward starting form Raven Lodge with multiple assignments on the way.

Utilizing past search history, SAR managers predicted a likely route of the missing woman and dispatched a third team to drive to a location near Diver’s Lake and to sound the vehicle siren. The missing woman contacted search managers to let them know that she had indeed heard the siren and the team was sent off to navigate towards her location.

Two hours of difficult hiking brought CVGSAR members face to face with the woman who was assessed and then hiked back out to the waiting vehicle. She and her dog were transported back to Raven Lodge, where she was assessed by BC Ambulance staff and transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital for further assessment and treatment.

CVGSAR members on all teams, particularly the helicopter inserted team displayed amazing night navigation skills in difficult terrain and were back at Raven Lodge by 3 a.m., says Paul Berry of CVGSAR to pack up equipment in readiness for the next operation.

It must be remembered that all members of CVGSAR volunteer their time, expertise and in many cases their own equipment, at their own expense to conduct this important work. All of the 22 members involved in Wednesday evening's operation were required to be at their places of work Thursday morning.

For those venturing into the back country be aware that trails are in many cases still obscured by snow, making route finding much more difficult.

Do your research before heading out. Be prepared. Have the gear and the level of fitness required to travel in the planned terrain. Having a map, and being skilled in the use of compass and GPS are essential in such conditions.

Staying put if lost and communicating with RCMP and search officials makes the process finding you much easier.

— Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue

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