A lost North Vancouver trail runner survived a bitterly cold night in the forest this week by burrowing into a stump and covering himself with moss.
The 44-year-old got into trouble Sunday afternoon when he struck out into the woods near Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and became disoriented. The man, who is new to North Vancouver, had started his run at 1 p.m., made his way east across the creek and up into the Hanes Valley before heading back and losing sight of his path in the failing light.
By 4: 30 p.m., in near-complete darkness and without a cellphone, the lightly dressed runner dug into a stump somewhere on the east side of Lynn Creek, huddled into the hollow he'd made and covered himself in moss.
It was another five hours before a staff member closing up Lynn Headwaters Regional Park found his car in the park's overflow lot and alerted the RCMP. Rescuers faced a challenging task.
"It's a very difficult search to conduct, because the person could have gone north, east, south or west . . . especially with trail running," said North Shore Rescue team leader Time Jones. "It was dark, and it was cold - in the creek valley (especially)."
Knowing the clock was ticking, teams fanned out across the area, setting off parachute flares and using loud hailers in an effort to draw the victim's attention. By dawn, with no sign of the man, the team brought in a helicopter and began revisiting some of the same ground, at one point following the wrong set of tracks up Hanes Valley. They were starting to lose hope.
"The two scenarios were (that) he had drowned in Lynn Creek while crossing, or that he had fallen in Crown Pass and was in a tree well," said Jones. "We were looking for an unresponsive or possibly dead person."
Miraculously, the man had survived. At about 10 a.m., the aircrew spotted him on the west side of Lynn Creek. He had apparently risen at sunrise, waded across the creek and was now trying to make his way out of the forest.
Rescuers loaded the shivering victim into the chopper and flew him to Capilano Gate rescue station where he was treated by B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics and rushed to hospital. He was suffering from exhaustion, mild to moderate hypothermia and frost bite. He is expected to recover, but it was a close call.
"His body was shutting down on him," said Jones. "People in that situation sit down on a rock and go to sleep, and that's it. That's what he would have done."