Two hikers had to be rescued after dark in below freezing conditions on Sunday (Feb. 14) after they ended up stuck on a cliff without appropriate gear in a closed off area on Grouse Mountain.
The North Vancouver rescue was the third call of the day for busy North Shore Rescue teams on Valentine’s Day.
The beginner hikers had strayed out of bounds and found themselves in treacherous, icy terrain on cliff bands West of the Grouse Grind, inside the watershed, which is closed to the public.
“They hiked off trail and ended up in a pretty steep, slippery spot,” said Scott Merriman, search and rescue manager with NSR.
He said the pair had started their hike, without much of plan, around 1 p.m. and called for help when they got into trouble on their descent at 7 p.m.
Twelve NSR members headed into the dark, rainy, snowy conditions in below freezing temperatures to save the hikers, reaching their location at around 11 p.m.
“They were at the bottom of a narrow 50-degree chute, and below them was about a 20-metre cliff,” said Merriman.
“One had his feet against a tree holding him up, and then the other guy had just one foot against a root or a branch keeping him from falling. So, they were like that until we got to them.”
Rescue team members had to rappel down to their location, in rain and sleet, to provide the hikers with harnesses and belay them back up to a safer location where they could be walked down using hand lines.
Merriman said the duo were not prepared for the conditions on the mountain at all and were found wearing running shoes.
“They were definitely beginner hikers and not prepared for the conditions at all,” he said. “They were in running shoes and had no micro spikes or anything else. "They didn't really indicate what their plan was.
“Our teams had responded with micro spikes, but they found that that wasn't enough and had to put full crampons on.”
It was close to 1:49 a.m. before NSR members and the hikers were out of the field safely.
NSR said the hiking pair luckily managed to get a call out to 911, but the crew could not phone them back as they did not have a cell phone plan.
“The second phone had a dead battery,” a NSR Facebook update states.
“If their phone lost battery or was unable to get cell signal the end of this search would have likely resulted in two fatalities, or two missing hikers that would remain missing indefinitely.”
Earlier that day, NSR also helped Ladysmith SAR with a medical aid call for a woman that had been missing and out overnight in freezing conditions.
NSR used its new helicopter hoist for the first time to rescue the woman.
“A hoist tech and ER doctor were hoisted down, packaged the subject, and were hoisted back up,” a NSR Facebook update states.
The woman was transferred to BC Emergency Health Services at the Nanaimo Airport.
The third call was for a pair who became lost on Mount Seymour, but they were able to make it out by themselves.
Merriman reminded hikers that the Grouse Grind is closed and to plan ahead before deciding to go for winter hike.
“Number one you shouldn't be in the area,” he said. “But for general hikes, do some trip preparation and a bit of research on where you're going. Make sure that you have appropriate footwear and microspikes, especially in the winter, when it does get slippery.”
NSR also reminded hikers to “make sure you tell someone where you are going, plan for the weather, map your route, bring appropriate equipment, and turn your phone off or put it on airplane mode while you hike, so you have battery to phone 911, and ideally, carry a sat device.”