An all-night search in Strathcona Park serves as a good reminder for hikers to be prepared when they venture into the wilderness.
In this case, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue (CVGSAR) was contacted to find a pair of lost hikers about 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9. The two had become lost in the fog while returning to Circlet Lake from Mount Albert Edward.
“There was certainly lots of ample warning about the weather,” says CVGSAR president Paul Berry.
The search-and-rescue team found them about 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 10. The hikers had been stranded in the fog on a ridge above Circlet Lake at about 1,500 metres.
“They had missed the turn back down, or the junction on the trail back down to Circlet, gone too far west and ended up on a cliff face on the western shore of the lake,” Berry says.
After the team found them, they set up camp and brought them out once it was daylight on Saturday.
“They just pitched a tent, brewed some soup and got them warm, and basically caught a couple of hours sleep until first light and then hiked them back down to their campsite at Circlet Lake,” Berry says.
In this case, one of the hikers at a location where she could send a message to her mother in Washington. The mother contacted Washington authorities, who contacted Comox Valley RCMP, which in turn got in touch with CVGSAR to start a search. A team of four hiked into the area to find the pair, though seven or eight other members helped in a support or planning role through the night.
Berry points out the pair did some things right in this case: staying in one place, having a communication device that worked, using a noise-making device like a horn that helped the team find them and bringing flashlights.
“They had some things with them to help them out through the night,” he says.
However, he emphasizes there are some things the two hikers should have done differently, such as leaving for the summit earlier in the day, preparing for changing weather conditions, having a map of the area and being wary of all rock cairns as guides.
“Certainly, time of day heading up was problematic,” he says.
The fog that came in was especially thick in the area and made searching difficult.
“Even your headlight beam didn’t provide you much visibility,” he adds.
As well, Berry recommends hikers have a navigation device like a GPS because it is not possible to rely on one’s mobile phone in remote locations and sometimes there are no well-worn trails to follow.
“Once you’re in the alpine, you need to have good navigation skills,” he says.