Comox Valley volunteers help to rescue ill-prepared Victoria hiker

Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue helped to retrieve a poorly prepared 26-year-old Victoria hiker from Strathcona Provincial Park during the weekend.

Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue helped to retrieve a poorly prepared 26-year-old Victoria hiker from Strathcona Provincial Park during the weekend.CVGSAR was activated by the RCMP just before midnight Saturday evening to begin a search for the man, who was last seen leaving Circlet Lake that morning with a plan to climb Mount Albert Edward and return.The hiker, poorly prepared for the conditions and unfamiliar with the difficulty of travelling in alpine terrain, went alone after a debate with his girlfriend about the merits of climbing in such poor weatherconditions.She chose to stay at Circlet Lake. When the man failed to return to camp by 9 p.m., RCMP were notified and CVGSAR was contacted by the Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre.CVGASR responded immediately despite the high winds and heavy rains that were bearing down on the mountain. A command location was established at Mount Washington Alpine Resort’s Raven Lodge and search managers began the task of planning search tactics and determining resources for the morning.Given the cool temperatures in the alpine and with severe weather forecast for the next two days, time was of the essence, says Paul Berry of CVGSAR.As many local SAR volunteers were involved in course work and certification courses throughout the province during the weekend, the call went out to teams up and down the Island.By 5 a.m., SAR teams from the Comox Valley, Campbell River,Cowichan Lake, Port Alberni and Nanaimo converged at RavenLodge ready to be put into the field. Two teams began immediately to hike in to explore areas of high probability while a third team flew by helicopter to Circlet lake to interview and extract the man’s girlfriend.Despite the readiness of the teams, weather proved to hamper search efforts, as helicopters could not easily access the search area despite incredible flying by the pilots of Ascent Helicopters. As weather windows opened, pilots inserted teams throughout the morning, accessing higher and higher terrain and with it falling snow.Search managers and searchers alike were deeply concerned about the weather and its impact on the lost man, knowing full well that hypothermia is the No. 1 killer of lost persons in our province. Searchers were ecstatic to locate the man on a ridge at 5,200 feet, above Circlet Lake just after 1 p.m. He was airlifted to Raven Lodge for assessment by BC ambulance and transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was later released, humbled and wiser from his experience, Berry says.As predicted, the man had become disoriented in the weather the previous day and had been drawn into the wrong lake and then had followed the Oyster River drainage to the Oyster River main logging road. As luck would have it, he found an abandoned fire truck and took refuge in the truck overnight before turning around and climbing back up towards Albert Edward early Sunday morning. All SAR teams were successful extracted from the search area just after 5 p.m.CVGSAR reminds those looking to venture out into backcountrythat proper trip planning, preparation and equipment is essential. Many areas of Strathcona Park do not have well defined trails and as such skillful navigation is a must. If disoriented, stop travelling, find a sheltered location and contact 911 if possible.CVGSAR thanks Comox Valley Emergency Social Services with their assistance in caring for wet, tired searchers and to Mount Washington Alpine Resort for opening and providing the full use of Raven’s Lodge throughout the search and to providing catering services to our SAR volunteers.— Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue

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