A hiker needed rescuing after venturing into an unsanctioned area of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and becoming injured last week.
The hiker was exploring the park reserve with friends when the group wandered off a designated trail and found themselves navigating through steep terrain where the hiker fell.
One of the group called 911 and the dispatcher alerted Parks Canada to the situation around 3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 18.
Nathalie Chouinard-Nolet, a visitor safety technician with the park reserve, told the Westerly News that the injured hiker was stranded near the park reserve’s southern border at Cox Bay.
“The hiker had slipped and injured her leg and she could no longer bear weight on her injured leg, so she couldn’t walk anymore,” Chouinard-Nolet said. “From our knowledge of the area, we knew that where the injury occurred it includes some steep, rocky terrain.”
She said a Parks Canada visitor safety team arrived at the site to assess the situation and quickly realized more help would be needed, so the West Coast Inland Search and Rescue crew was called in to assist.
“We had a great response from the team to carry the stretcher through the steep rainforest trail,” read a Facebook post from WISAR. “Our rope team leap frogged to set up some simple belays leading to a fast and safe task.”
Chouinard-Nolet said the park reserve is grateful to have volunteer groups like WISAR to lean on when situations arise.
“We’re really fortunate for a remote rural area to have such a great network of emergency service providers and community members that we work with,” she said. “It’s really important.”
She said rope rescue techniques were used to lift the injured hiker to safety and the evacuation took roughly five hours with the hiker being transferred to BC Ambulance personnel around 8 p.m.
“When we’re dealing with steep, rocky terrain, it does require some sort of rope rescue techniques to be able to do that safely. We wouldn’t want to cause other injuries, so that’s pretty extensive and it takes a little bit more time,” she said.
While the rescue was successful, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging hikers never to chase untrodden terrain and instead always stick to the trails and beachheads they’re used to.
“Designated trails are actively maintained and often have infrastructure in place to inform visitors and reduce the risk of injury,” Parks Canada said in a statement. “Safety is everyone’s responsibility. At Parks Canada, we do our part to help visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience by managing hazards and making safety information available to everyone. Hikers can do their part by staying on designated trails and being prepared.”
Chouinard-Nolet added that, along with sticking to designated trails, hikers must always be prepared before they head out to explore.
“It’s easy to place judgement on hikers who do sustain injuries, from my point of view it’s really, really important to remember that accidents do occur,” she said. “It’s really important for hikers in the National Park Reserve to stick the designated trails and waterfront facilities. Those are the areas where we do have have infrastructure in place to inform visitors and reduce the risk of injury and that includes areas like the Rainforest Loops, Long Beach, and Florencia Bay.”
She said anyone planning to explore the park reserve should make sure they tell somebody about their plans and expected return time, dress appropriately for the weather and be wary that weather can change quickly, and carry essential items, like food water, headlamps and a communications device.
“What can seemingly appear to be a short hike in an area that really isn’t very far from anything, can become much more involved if someone in your group suffers an injury,” she said. “By having all the essentials you’ll be in a better position to call for help, keep warm and dry and prevent the situation from getting worse.”
She added that the group the hiker was with had been prepared and able to reach out for help when a member of their party became injured.
“Those were key pieces to help reduce the severity of that incident and they did that very well,” she said.