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Group of hikers rescued from closed North Shore mountain trail

Metro Vancouver closed the trail last week because of treacherous winter conditions.
North Shore Rescue volunteers help a group of hikers out of the North Vancouver backcountry near Grouse Mountain, Nov. 12, 2022. | North Shore Rescue

North Shore Rescue is urging backcountry adventurers to keep away from closed trails after rescuing a trio of hikers from the Hanes Valley, Saturday night.

The group had set out from the Lynn Headwaters trailhead around 8 a.m. and planned to reach the top of Grouse Mountain – a 16-kilometre hike that takes eight to 10 hours in summer conditions.

Metro Vancouver closed the trail for the winter season last week. The Hanes Valley is treacherous when it becomes covered in snow and ice, and has been the site of numerous fatalities.

“From what we got from them, they saw the signage that it’s closed, but they decided to go anyway,” North Shore Rescue search manager Dale Weidman said.

The group made it most of the way to the back side of Grouse Mountain when they found conditions were tougher than expected at Crown Pass.

“People lose their courage, I guess. They see some deep snow and it’s dark. They got nervous,” he said.

The group was lucky to have good enough cell reception to make a call for help. Weidman opted to send a ground team in from the top of Grouse to make their way down to the hikers and assist them out of the backcountry. They mostly just needed a little motivation and encouragement from the North Shore Rescue volunteers to complete the last leg up to Grouse.

“It’s either this or spend the night out here,” Weidman said.

Weidman said the group was both appreciative and apologetic, but the team’s leadership would like to see people abide by signs that warn of a trail or area closure.

“When an area is closed, we’re not closing it just because it’s fun,” he said. “It’s closed for a reason.”

That wasn’t the end of the mountain misadventure over the weekend. North Shore Rescue was out twice on Sunday. In the first case, they received a request for help from West Vancouver police after two women got off trail and into steep terrain near Cypress Falls. The women were unable to pull up their GPS co-ordinates from their smartphones, which is typically the fastest way to find someone who is lost, said search manager Paul Markey.

NSR members were on their way to the site when a trail runner happened by the women and helped guide them back to the trail.

Before that call was wrapped, another came in from the Dog Mountain trail on Mount Seymour where a tourist had fallen and received a nasty leg injury.

With the subject unable to walk and fresh snow making a ground rescue dangerous, the team flew the woman out by Talon helicopter, aided by night vision goggles.

They landed at nearby First Lake and packaged her into a stretcher so she could be airlifted to the Capilano Gate Search and Rescue Station.

Markey said the group, which was visiting from Los Angeles, was totally unprepared for the trail.

This time of year, it’s important to have a flashlight or headlamp on the trails, Markey said, even if you think you’re going to be back out before sundown.

Even more important is having the proper footwear to contend with slippery conditions, he said.

“For sure, you need microspikes,” he said. “It’s nice and sunny down in the valley but it’s full-on winter in the mountains now.”

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