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Real deals and false alarms, call volume cranks up for North Shore Rescue

The trails are getting busier and visitors need to plan carefully
A North Shore Rescue volunteer assists a hiker with an injured leg after a fall in the North Vancouver backcountry. | North Shore Rescue

Two young men spent a night lost in the North Shore Mountains Tuesday but were safe at home as rescue volunteers combed the trails for them the next morning.

The men in their 20s were part of a group of four hiking the BCMC Trail but, on their return, they got separated. When their friends reached the bottom around 9 p.m., they reported them missing. But the two lost subjects couldn’t call for help themselves because they were keeping their cellphones in the backpacks of the friends who made it out.

Search manager Stan Sovdat said North Shore Rescue volunteers scoured the mountain on foot until about 4 a.m. At first light, a full-scale search involving Talon Helicopters, and volunteers from other Metro Vancouver search and rescue teams got started.

“Crews were all well out in the field, when we got notified that they were found at home in Vancouver,” Sovdat said.

Sovdat said they did the right thing by alerting Vancouver police that they were no longer in the mountains, but he struggled to understand their decision to hand their cellphones over to friends.

“[Cellphones] are great, but you can’t absolutely rely on them, especially if you give them away to someone else to carry,” he said.

And North Shore Rescue always advises groups not to split up or become separated on the trails.

It’s the second time in a week that volunteers were mobilized to search for someone who was already out of danger. On Monday, teams were in the field for more than an hour looking for a woman reported lost on the trails only to learn she was on a bus headed for home.

Apart from the false alarms, the team’s call volume for the real thing have been picking up with the spring weather.

Earlier in the day, Tuesday, North Shore Rescue pulled a woman from the Kennedy Falls Trail after a fall left her unable to walk. Because she was deep in the backcountry, Sovdat said they chose to use their helicopter long-line to get her out.

“The call came in as a dislocated knee. And this sounded like a very serious injury, a very painful injury,” he said.

It was the second similar call for a leg injury in that same area in a week. Sovdat said the Kennedy Falls Trail, along with the Dog Mountain Trail on Mount Seymour, is one of the most likely places for hikers to hurt themselves in the North Shore Mountains.

“It is really rugged, rooty, loose, bouldery, wet, slimy, and we get a lot of ankle injuries,” he said.

Call volumes going up are an indication that the trails are getting busier and that more people need to make sure they are fully prepared with the right footwear and gear before heading out.

‘Every day, we’ve been having one or two calls over the last several days,” Sovdat said.

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