'Missing hiker' found - not hiking and not missing

Parked car spurs wild goose chase

One note left on a windshield would’ve kept North Shore Rescue volunteers at home, a helicopter on the ground and allowed two police agencies to pursue something more important.

That’s the lesson following the search for Yao Gu – an 18-year-old Federal Way, Wash. resident who was apparently never missing.

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Gu left a car in the Cypress resort parking lot overnight with plans to retrieve it the next day. However, that plan was not communicated to Cypress staff, according to police.

“If there’s a car left overnight there without explanation we have to respond as though somebody could be in jeopardy,” said West Vancouver Police Department spokesman Const. Jeff Palmer. “Hours can be critical if somebody’s out in need of assistance.”

The unexplained Lexus prompted a North Shore Rescue team to scour the mountain’s nooks and crannies in case Gu had become disoriented while hiking, said search manager Doug Pope.

“Just physically getting up to our Cypress station to start the call’s been a challenge for a lot of our members because it’s backed up all the way to the bottom of the Cypress road up to the highway,” Pope said during the search.

And while volunteers braved an avalanche risk, West Vancouver police reached out to their colleagues in Federal Way who went knocking on doors for any information on the traveller.

“A lot of officers’ time and effort on both sides of the border had to be expended,” Palmer noted.

The event is a very teachable moment, according to Palmer.

If visitors to the North Shore’s mountains are uncomfortable leaving a note on their car, Palmer advises giving word to the resort’s guest services or parking staff if a vehicle is going to be left overnight.

“You can spare the mountain, North Shore Rescue, and police a lot of unnecessary effort by just leaving some word,” he said.

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