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UPDATE: Injured hiker among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’
Mount Arrowsmith. Three hikers were rescued from the south side of the mountain on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (Nancy Randall photo)

Three hikers were rescued from the south side of Mount Arrowsmith on Sunday (Jan. 17), with two women taken to hospital in Courtenay.

In a joint rescue operation, Arrowsmith Search and Rescue Association (ASAR) and Alberni Valley Rescue Squad (AVRS) were able to assist in locating and rescuing the trio from Judge’s Route on the mountain. One of the people sustained ‘significant injuries’, while another was also seriously injured. Both were transferred to the trauma centre at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. A third person was uninjured.

The call initially came in to 911 Sunday afternoon, Jan. 17 as three skiers injured at Mt. Arrowsmith, AVRS search manager Dave Poulsen said. When rescuers reached the trio in a deep gully on Judge’s Route they discovered the three were hikers, not skiers.

Arrowsmith SAR quickly accessed a helicopter and spotted the hikers by air. Alberni Valley sent two ground teams—one to the trailhead of Judge’s Route to climb up, and one airlifted to the top of the route to climb down and intercept.

“It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them,” said Ken Neden from ASAR. A CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopter from 442 Squadron in Comox was dispatched from 19 Wing, and two search and rescue technicians were dropped at the scene.

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A helicopter and search plane were tasked with finding the three while search and rescue teams worked on foot.

According to Neden, AVRS members were lifted to the top of Mount Arrowsmith to try and work their way down and locate the trio.

ASAR used helicopters and flares to illuminate the side of the mountain as it became dark. Reports indicated nearby residents were calling to report fires on the mountain.

Once the trio of hikers was located at approximately midnight, four AVRS rescuers and two SARtechs conducted a rope rescue.

“They discovered there were two members injured, and they were hikers, not skiers,” Poulsen said. “(Rescuers) were able to bring all three of the subjects back up from the gully they were in to a location where the Cormorant could come in and hoist the patients up and take them to the hospital.”

Two women were transported to hospital in Comox, and transferred by EHS to a trauma centre at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. The lone male in the party was uninjured, according to Poulsen.

Neden said “there had been quite a bit of cloud in and around where the people were, which was roughly two-thirds up the mountain,” adding to the precariousness of the situation.

Poulsen said the three hikers had proper equipment but “from our understanding it was their first time up Mt. Arrowsmith and their first time going up Judge’s Route. They had appropriate gear but they weren’t experienced with the area they were in.”

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Alberni Valley Rescue Squad volunteer Nick Bachmeier prepares his gear to descend Judge’s Route on Mount Arrowsmith to rescue three hikers, two seriously injured, on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVE POULSEN, AVRS)
A flare from a helicopter can be seen from the vantage point of one of the Alberni Valley Rescue Squad’s rope rescue team members during a complicated rescue on Mount Arrowsmith, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVE POULSEN, AVRS)