Backcountry trails closed, North Shore Rescue warns after rescue

No sooner than the first snow fell in the backcountry, North Shore Rescue members were out saving lost hikers in winter conditions.

Volunteers were out until nearly midnight Monday to rescue a man and woman in their 20s who had gotten lost while attempting the Hanes Valley Trail. Metro Vancouver officially closed the trail for the winter earlier that day.

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The RCMP were able to “ping” their cellphone’s co-ordinates, allowing North Shore Rescue members to quickly get on the right track. Search managers sent three teams in on foot via Grouse Mountain and found the couple in a creek bed near Crown Pass. The team used gear from a nearby supply cache to warm the hikers up and get them better equipped to walk out.

“They were woefully ill-prepared for the conditions. They had no lights. They were in sneakers. They were not prepared and they did not leave enough time to do the route in these kinds of conditions,” said Doug Pope, North Shore Rescue search manager. “They were in a very serious situation. They were already starting to be hypothermic and, if they weren’t able to get the call out, they could have easily died back there because they had no gear to keep themselves alive.”

Hanes Valley, Coliseum Mountain, Lynn Lake, Crown Mountain, Goat Ridge and Goat Mountain are all now off-limits for the winter, and have signs posted at trailheads warning hikers to stay out.

“It is closed for a reason. It is a very difficult area. There’s no cell reception. It’s steep, mountainous terrain and we’ve had two deaths in there in the last two years and we’re doing everything we can to avoid a third one,” Pope said, referring to Tom Billings and Liang Jin.

Other trails in the area remain open but the changing season means hikers have to take extra precautions, Pope said. The sun sets around 4:45 p.m. this time of year.

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