The search for a lost hiker in the North Shore backcountry has been called off.
North Shore Rescue says it’s unlikely a White Rock man who disappeared on the Howe Sound Crest Trail could have survived more than 10 days in the wilderness.
“It’s pretty remote. We’ve had 10 days now. We’ve had near-freezing temperatures at that altitude most of those nights and we’ve had several rainy days including a significant storm over the weekend,” said Doug Pope, North Shore Rescue search manager.
“When it’s one to two degrees (Celsius) and wet, it can cause hypothermia quite quickly. For someone that’s not well prepared … with no extra clothing, no shelter and no real outdoor experience, it would be difficult for someone to survive 10 days at this time of the year up there.”
Neville Jewell, 52, parked his vehicle in the Cypress Mountain parking lot on Saturday, Sept. 12 and headed for the Lions. Around 2 p.m. he texted his girlfriend to say he had made it to the west Lion and that it had been a strenuous hike.
“That’s the last anyone’s heard from him,” said Pope said.
Cypress staff noticed his vehicle had been seemingly abandoned on Sunday and asked West Vancouver police to investigate.
Forensic investigation of Jewell’s cellphone data indicates he likely got lost somewhere east of the ridgeline that leads to the Lions and wound up in the steep terrain of the Sisters Creek drainage, which flows into the Capilano watershed.
North Shore Rescue, joined by volunteers from search and rescue outfits from Lions Bay, Coquitlam, Surrey, Maple Ridge and Mission planned to stay in the area until 4 p.m. Tuesday before deciding whether to continue the search.
The sad case underscores the importance of backcountry preparedness, which the team tries to raise awareness of with every mission, Pope said.
Jewell would have benefited from having a map or GPS to help him keep on trail, or a satellite communication device to call for help. And searchers would have had a greater chance of finding him if Jewell had included an estimated return time in his trip plan.
Pope said Jewell’s girlfriend thought he might have left the country to go visit his mother in Ireland, delaying the search effort.
The team is hoping someone who might have seen Jewell that weekend will have a key piece of information that could aid in the search.
“Both were pretty good weather days. We suspect there were a lot of hikers on the Howe Sound Crest Trail and the Lions area,” he said. “If anyone had seen him in that area, give us a call.”