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Family renews effort to find hiker lost in North Shore backcountry

Parents of a man lost and presumed dead in the North Shore backcountry are mounting a new effort to learn what happened to their son.

Parents of a man lost and presumed dead in the North Shore backcountry are mounting a new effort to learn what happened to their son.

Rescue crews from around the Lower Mainland put in more than 1,300 volunteer hours scouring the Hanes Valley in search of 24-year-old Carl Couture after he was last seen headed north from Grouse Mountain on Oct. 31 last year. He wasn’t reported missing, however, until three days later, after a major snowstorm.

Now Ghislain Couture and Suzanne Charest have travelled to the North Shore from Quebec with a stack of missing posters and hope for some closure in what happened to their only son.

“We will take the time that we need to. If it takes a couple of weeks, or a month we’ll see if we can get any answers or anything that can lead us to what happened,” Couture said. “We’re just waiting for the spring for the snow to melt down if he is in the mountains because they haven’t found anything at all.”

Carl’s parents are also visiting homeless camps and shelters on the off chance he made it out on his own.

“He was last seen on a Tuesday and the search started on a Friday. That’s a long delay but maybe it’s a possibility he came down in between. I don’t know. We haven’t got the answer. That’s why we’re still searching,” he said.

Carl studied film in university in Montreal. He was a vegan who liked to cook and he kept himself in good shape, his father said.

North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks said he plans to meet with the family to update them on the search. Rescue volunteers have kept the recovery effort up as recently as this past weekend when they returned to the area with a search dog. The Hanes Valley, however, is still snowbound in many parts.

“I can say that based on the information we have, we have some very likely areas he may be in,” Danks said.

“We absolutely flooded the areas that we were able to access and we didn’t find any sign of him whatsoever. In my mind, there are only a couple of other spots that he could be in.”

The team still has four other people they intend to find and recover: Neville Jewell, who was last heard from in the area of St. Marks Summit in September 2015, Debbie Blair, who disappeared on Black Mountain in September 2016, and Roy Lee and Chun Lam who went snowshoeing on the Howe Sound Crest Trail Christmas Day 2016 and did not return.

In most of those cases, the subjects were in the backcountry unprepared and did not tell anyone where they were going, seriously hampering chances of them getting out on their own or being rescued, Danks said. Still, the team remains committed.

“Closure is a huge thing for us. We’re incredibly motivated to do that for the family but also on the flip side… it’s so frustrating for us to not be able to locate someone. We really want to try to follow through and clear up all of these cases.”

If anyone in the backcountry comes across anything that looks out of place – abandoned clothing, boots, packs or gear – they should leave it where it is, Danks said, take a photo and get approximate GPS co-ordinates from their smartphone and call police and North Shore Rescue.

Carl is described as white, standing 6-2, weighing 165 pounds, with short blonde hair, brown eyes. He was last seen wearing glasses, a dark green jacket, blue sweat pants and a small, green backpack.

Anyone with information about Carl's whereabouts is asked to contact the Vancouver Police Department.