A hiker who prompted a massive search in the North Shore backcountry after going missing on the Howe Sound Crest Trail has been found alive and in good condition.
The 25-year-old was found around 2 p.m. Thursday after hiking down a creek drainage into the Capilano watershed area until he found a road, said Peter Haigh, search manager with North Shore Rescue.
There, he was spotted by a contractor working in the watershed who picked him up and brought him back to the Capilano Gate entrance.
The hiker was “tired and hungry” but otherwise in excellent condition, said Haigh, who spoke to the man on a helicopter ride out to meet with those who headed up the search and rescue efforts in Lions Bay.
“We’re overjoyed,” said Haigh.
After reaching the bottom of the west Lion and finding icy conditions Wednesday afternoon, the hiker continued down the Howe Sound Crest Trail, but got off the trail somewhere near the Lembke Creek drainage when he slipped and fell down an embankment, said Martin Colwell, search manager for Lions Bay Search and Rescue.
The man continued down into the watershed and ended up “hunkering down” overnight in the forest.
Temperatures on the trail were hovering around freezing overnight on Wednesday.
He tried to start a fire, but didn’t have any matches.
The paper left on the ground was later discovered by a search team, who were looking for the man.
After losing his water bottle in the earlier fall, the man headed in the direction of Lembke Creek to find some water, and ended up walking in the creek while following down to a bridge crossing, said Colwell.
Search teams, including nine members of North Shore Rescue and a team from Lions Bay Search and Rescue, had spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning combing the backcountry looking for the missing hiker.
The man started the hike with a female friend on Wednesday afternoon, beginning at Lions Bay, but after the woman decided to turn around, he told her to drive around to the Cypress parking lot in West Vancouver and he would go on to the west Lion by himself, then take the trail and meet her three or four hours later.
Haigh said that plan wasn’t realistic. That hike would normally take between six and eight hours, he said.
After he was rescued, the man agreed with that assessment, said Haigh.
When the man didn’t show up at Cypress Wednesday evening, his friend called police.
Search teams had spent the night searching the Howe Sound Crest Trail without finding any sign of the missing man.
On the west side of the trail, there are many steep cliffs and drop offs while on the east, the terrain drops into the drainage for the Capilano watershed.
Search teams had been concerned after learning the terrain near the Lion was very icy, especially since the missing hiker was wearing runners and carrying no equipment.
Two helicopter teams from Talon Helicopters spent Thursday morning flying over drainages in the area looking for any sign of the missing man.
Colwell said it’s important for hikers to be prepared when heading into the backcountry. While it may be sunny in the city, up in the mountains “it’s wintertime,” he said. Colwell said hikers need to be prepared with winter gear including spare clothing, a headlamp and spare batteries for a cell phone.
The hiker, an international student from Taiwan living in Vancouver, had previously hiked in the area, said Colwell, but not in winter conditions.