Searchers spent hundreds if not thousands of hours looking for missing hiker Howard Moore this week, but there’s likely nothing that could have been done to save him.
That’s the message from North Shore Rescue the day after they recovered the body of the 74-year-old man on July 1.
A friend reported Moore missing to the Vancouver Police Department on Tuesday. North Vancouver RCMP members spotted his vehicle parked at Grouse Mountain with a note on the window dated June 27, stating he was headed for Skyline Trail.
Over the next three days, dozens of searchers fanned out over the front side of Grouse Mountain for up to 12 hours per day, including helicopter support. Members of several other Lower Mainland volunteer search and rescue teams – including Lions Bay, the Sunshine Coast, Ridge Meadows, Coquitlam and Squamish – came to assist, as did Metro Vancouver park rangers, Grouse Mountain staff and bystanders who simply wanted to help, North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks said.
“There are just a ton of braided trails off the common trails. It’s actually surprising how many there are that aren’t mapped,” he said.
On Thursday, a trail user's dog tore off into a ravine just outside the Grouse Mountain gravel parking lot and wouldn’t come out. A North Shore Rescue member happened to be nearby and made the discovery of Moore’s body, along with the dog’s owners.
Danks said it appears Moore arrived back from his hike and had stopped for a rest before falling.
“He still had his backpack on. I would imagine it was some sort of medical event that happened as he was sitting there,” Danks said. “The outcome would not have changed. He would have passed away immediately.”
All of Moore’s family live in the United Kingdom, Danks said, and they have been kept informed by the North Vancouver RCMP.
Danks said the sad case underscores why it’s always best to hike with a partner, or at the very least, let someone know where you are going and when you are due back.
“It's one of those calls where you just don't expect someone to be so incredibly close. It's such a frequently travelled parking lot,” he said. “Having the note is a small piece of the puzzle. The more detailed the information is, the more targeted our response can be.”
It is now officially up to the BC Coroners Service to investigate the cause of death.
“Obviously when we're in extreme conditions, I think we have to be respectful of that,” Danks said. “It's hard to not think it's related to the heat wave… [He] was very well prepared. He was a very experienced hiker. And, he just met an unfortunate circumstance here.”
Danks said he was incredibly proud of how his team responded, including new search managers, under extremely taxing search conditions. Credit is also owed to the Metro Vancouver park rangers and Grouse Mountain staff as well as bystanders who simply wanted to help, he added.
In the search, they found numerous articles of clothing, electronics and backpacks, unrelated to Moore. Those were passed on to the RCMP to follow up on.
It is the second time this year a search for a trail user has ended in the death of a subject. In January, 21-year-old snowshoer Nikki Donnelly died after getting lost on the Howe Sound Crest Trail.
- with files from Brendan Kergin and Jane Seyd