North Shore Rescue plucks lost hikers from steep gully

SIX amateur hikers had to be plucked out of the North Shore backcountry as darkness fell on Tuesday.

The wayward trekkers, all UBC students in their early 20s, set out to hike the Hanes Valley Trail, which leads from the Lynn Headwaters Park to Grouse Mountain, early Tuesday. But the group had to call 9-1-1 after taking a wrong turn from a snow-covered trail and becoming lost in a steep gully near Crown Pass.

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"It's challenging route in summer conditions. Metro Vancouver rates it as an eight-plus-hour hike. It's 15 kilometres long with significant elevation gain," said Doug Pope, North Shore Rescue search manager. "We still have winter conditions in the North Shore mountains. They were ill equipped for a summer hike."

Despite being in over their heads, the hikers knew enough to call 9-1-1, who relayed the call to North Shore Rescue around 5 p.m.

"Probably the best decision they made all day was to call us relatively early," Pope said. By making that early decision to call, it helped us work with them. I coached them to get their GPS coordinates off the phone, which significantly aided the rescue."

North Shore Rescue volunteers aboard a Talon helicopter found the hikers and returned with gear to long-line a rescuer 200 feet down to harness them in, two at a time, and airlift them back to Metro Vancouver's helipad next to Capilano Lake.

Had they waited any later to call for help or gone any deeper into the gully, they likely would have lost cell reception or conditions would have been too dark to safely manouevre a helicopter in the mountains, Pope said.

The inexperienced outdoor adventurers were "cold, wet and tired, but otherwise uninjured," Pope said.

Despite the warming weather in the Lower Mainland, much of the backcountry is still impassable and many trails remain dangerous, Pope said.

"People need proper gear when they're venturing into the North Shore Mountains for travel and they need to observe closed area signs. This area was posted closed by Metro parks," he said.

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