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Tourists survive a night in North Shore backcountry storm

Surviving the night in the storm would have been "miserable," North Shore Rescue says.
North Shore Rescue volunteers help a group of hikers out of the North Vancouver backcountry near Grouse Mountain, Nov. 12, 2022. | North Shore Rescue

Two tourists survived a night in a backcountry snowstorm without proper gear or supplies.

North Vancouver RCMP alerted North Shore Rescue around 1 p.m. Sunday after a hiker heard cries for help about three kilometres up the Lynn Headwaters Trail and called 911.

Search manager Dave Barnett deployed ground teams to start heading to the site but the hikers who first realized something was wrong also searched and found the man and woman who were visitors from Mexico and Colombia.

They had hiked to Norvan Falls on Saturday but, on their way home, strayed from the trail as snow and darkness set in. The man and woman had lost their phone and didn’t have a headlamps or any other gear required for being out after dark.

They thought they could follow Lynn Creek back to civilization, something North Shore Rescue never recommends, Barnett said.

“Well, that wasn’t such a good plan because the creek’s extremely rugged and it’s wet and so they didn’t make it very far,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to get yourself into serious trouble. It’s true, especially in wintertime.”

The tourists survived the night by taking shelter under some trees and huddling together. Barnett said spending the night out with snow and sleet coming down must have been “miserable.”

The hikers who found them offered up some dry clothing and food, while rescue teams made their way in. A Metro Vancouver park ranger was the first to reach them and carried out a first aid assessment. One of the hikers was hypothermic and had some discolouration in their toe, indicating a cold-related injury.

“When they were found, they were really cold and obviously frightened,” he said.

Once they were out of the backcountry, the pair were taken to Lions Gate Hospital for a full assessment.

Because the subjects were from out of town, it’s likely they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they set out for Norvan Falls with a winter storm blowing in, Barnett said, underscoring the need for proper research before any hike. Barnett said they likely had set out too late in the day to make it to Norvan Falls and back on Saturday.

“In that kind of snowfall, 30 centimetres, it’s tough travel. You need snowshoes or microspikes and it’s going to take you a lot longer than you think,” he said. “It’s also a difficult trail to follow at the best of times but, in the snow without a hardened, packed trail, it is very difficult to follow.”

Anyone planning a hike into the backcountry should be equipped to spend the night, if the worst should happen, he added.

The subjects also failed to tell anyone where they were going and when they were due back, delaying rescue efforts until the following day, Barnett added.

Barnett said big thanks are owed to the hikers who stepped in to call 911 and investigate where the voices were coming from.

“If these hikers hadn’t heard these two calling for help and took the initiative to find them, it could have been really serious,” he said. “A few more hours and they may not have even been able to walk out or be heard, so they were just super fortunate.”

The same goes for the Metro Vancouver park ranger who provided a lot of help at the scene, Barnett added.

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