A 21-year-old Vancouver man is dead following a fall from a cliff in the North Shore backcountry.
Shortly after noon on Wednesday, a hiker in the Hanes Valley heard what he thought was rock fall, followed by screaming. As he tracked down the source, he came across a climber clinging to a cliff face on Crown Mountain and another man, unresponsive, about 60 metres below.
At that point in the mountains, there is no cellphone coverage and none of the men had a satellite phone. The hiker rushed to Grouse Mountain where he contacted staff and 911.
North Shore Rescue got a helicopter up immediately and scrambled a crew of four to the Capilano Gate Search and Rescue station.
From the air, they spotted the man still clinging to the rock face, as well as his fellow climber who had fallen into the gully below. They prioritized rescuing the man who was stranded but still responsive.
They quickly rigged the helicopter with a 250-foot longline to prepare for the very tricky extrication with a harness.
“The transition was very quick. Something like 15 or 30 seconds,” Danks said.
Rescuers flew the surviving climber back to waiting paramedics and returned the crew, including a doctor, to the area to attempt a rescue of the unresponsive man.
“They determined that he was deceased on scene,” Danks said.
The surviving man was injured and in shock but rescuers were able to learn a little about what had happened. The two men were attempting a highly technical rock climb at Widowmaker Arete but had gotten off course, Danks said.
The man who fell was about 12 metres above his friend, belaying rope out from a cliff ledge below when the fall happened. His friend pulled the rope tight in hope of arresting the fall, but he was unsuccessful and suffered third-degree burns on his hands in the process.
“He was really in shock. In addition to his injuries, I think it’s a really tough scene to manage and go through,” Danks said. “Our condolences go out to the family and friends of these individuals. Everything was done to save his life and unfortunately, in some of these situations, that can’t be done. … I think this was just a freak accident. These were experienced climbers.”
This is the first fatality in the North Shore backcountry this year.
Danks said thanks is owed to B.C. Ambulance Service, Metro Vancouver and Grouse Mountain staff, Talon Helicopters, the B.C. Corners Service and the North Vancouver RCMP.
“It was really a team effort and everybody was looking out for everyone else’s well-being and understanding the impact that this had on everyone. It was a really, really tragic situation,” he said.