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Two hikers spend cold night on Mount Seymour

Underestimating winter conditions, relying on cellphone for navigation among mistakes

Two women spent a cold night on the side of Mount Seymour Thursday night (Dec. 2) after underestimating challenging winter trail conditions.

The women, both in their 20s, had set out Thursday to hike the Mount Elsay loop, behind Mount Seymour. They made it to Mount Elsay, hiking on the eastern part of the trail loop, but started having trouble as they hiked back on the western half of the trail, said Jim Loree, North Shore Rescue search manager.

One of the women sent a text message to her fiancé, saying the trail was more difficult than expected. When the pair didn’t show up that evening, the woman’s fiancé called police.

North Shore Rescue sent out three ground teams, who started hiking the trail around 11:15 p.m. Thursday.

An RCMP helicopter with night vision also searched from the air.

The helicopter team spotted the women off trail and relayed their location back to the ground searchers, who reached the pair about 2:30 a.m. on Friday.

The women were cold but uninjured, said Loree, and searchers helped hike them back out on the eastern part of the trail. At a certain point, it was decided the women were too exhausted to continue so the team hunkered down until morning. A helicopter picked them up around 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Loree said the women were moderately experienced and had hiked the route in summer. They were equipped with gear that included layers of clothing, snowshoes, micro-spikes and headlamps. But the pair underestimated winter conditions on the steep, icy terrain.

“Everything changes a bit in winter. It gets dark a lot earlier. It gets harder to follow where you’re going,” he said.

“The conditions they chose to go out in were not good hiking conditions. They kind of underestimated how tricky it would be.”

Loree said the pair had been using a cellphone app for navigation, but soon found themselves in an area without cell service.

“Having to rely on your phone for navigation when there’s no cell service, that's a problem,” he said. “You can’t always rely on cell communication to get you out of a bind.”

Mt. Elsay trail loop
A map showing the Mt. Elsay trail loop. AllTrails