A Very Busy Day – “Ohly” The Dog Rescued
As noted in previous posts (Search for Ohly Suspended and Search for Ohly), NSR was engaged by the owners on Thursday afternoon to help recover “Ohly,” the Bernese Mountain dog, from a extremely steep area of Mount Seymour known as Suicide Gully. After two days of close encounters, NSR launched a full scale attempt to retrieve Ohly and bring him home. To be extremely clear, the rationale for launching this search was not primarily for the dog or his family. Although all the members responding did want to help the dog, the rationale came from the technical terrain Ohly was in, and the inherent risk to the public from entering this terrain.
Social media is a great tool, and in this case it really did rally the troops. There was an amazing convergent volunteer response, and a lot of support. However, this is a double edged sword in that attempts to rescue this dog from the terrain could, and likely would have resulted in serious injury or death to the good Samaritans. This of course would necessitate an emergency response by NSR personnel to the area, putting our members at even greater risk. Thus, the decision was made to approach this from a public safety perspective, and enter the terrain in a controlled and safe fashion to rescue Ohly. This was done with the full support of the land holder Metro Vancouver, and Emergency Management BC.
To perform this rescue safely, NSR had to engage a helicopter from our primary air carrier, Talon Helicopters. The owner of Talon generously donated flight time on the Thursday, but due to the cost of running a helicopter, had to charge for the Saturday. This cost has been covered by North Shore Rescue, and we truly do need help in paying this bill (Please Donate Here if you can – Note that it is for “Ohly” in the comments) which will likely total over $7000. Having the helicopter on scene was critical for three reasons:
- To transport crews into terrain
- To provide aerial support and search/terrain spotting for the ground crews
- To be available to evacuate the dog or any injured personnel quickly
In fact, the helicopter was able to spot Ohly and alert crews of a significant cliff below their location. This information aided in keeping our members out of harms way, while allowing them to effectively track the dog.
I have included an excerpt from a NSR member, Ryan Morasiewicz (see his helmet cam footage here), who was on the ground crew during the response:
The 7 member ground team, accompanied by Ohly’s owner, entered Suicide Gully at first light. From the lack of fresh tracks in the upper slopes of the gully, we were able to establish with a high degree of certainty that Ohly had not got out after Thursday evening’s search and sighting. By this time the Talon helicopter search had commenced and was searching the gully below us. Fairly quickly they were able to spot Ohly near our emergency supply cache and report that he was moving back uphill towards us. The helicopter dropped off another ground team at the helipad who would try to move uphill and cut off Ohly from moving further down the gully into more dangerous terrain, and then took off again to try and spot Ohly and vector in the ground teams.
The upper ground team had spread out across the gully to try and prevent Ohly from slipping past us. The northernmost two member spotted Ohly climbing back uphill onto a ridge crest. When they called out to him Ohly looked back but would not come and took off up the ridge. The members called in the helicopter and the rest of the ground team below and followed. Ohly followed the ridge uphill before dropping into the next gully to the north and into increasingly steep and dangerous terrain.
Four members followed Ohly’s tracks down as far as they could before the terrain forced them to stop for safety. Overhead, Talon reported that Ohly was 100′ below and stopped on the top of a series of cliffs. Ohly ultimately started to reascend the slope, attempting to get into the creek drainage to the north of the team. Again, despite calling and coaxing, Ohly would not come.
Fortunately, Ohly climbed into an increasingly narrow and banded area. Members were able to position themselves below and above Ohly and ground team leader Bruce was able to get upslope. Ohly had nowhere to go, and Bruce was able to get hold of his collar. Once grabbed, Ohly was quite docile and did not try to run. Treats and ear scratches were given, and the 4 members hiked Ohly back to the ridgecrest where he was reunited with his owner. The ground teams then descended to the helipad, where our friends from Talon Helicopters gave a lift down to the Bone Creek SAR Station in the Seymour River Valley.
In the middle of this response, a urgent call came in for a young male skier in cardiac arrest up on Cypress Bowl. Within moments, three members of NSR’s HETS team were airborne and en-route to Cypress. More info on this story can be found here. Then, immediately after the dog rescue, and the successful evacuation of the skier another call came in for a possible Code Alpha (Avalanche with people involved) situation near the Lions. Again, crews quickly “re-jigged” and responded in two helicopters to the area with full avalanche rescue gear. Please note, this only took minutes to launch this response. With two helicopters searching the area, it was quickly determined that there was no visible recent avalanche activity or human tracks in the area. As such, NSR stood down and returned to base for a lengthy cleanup and debrief.
Links to other Media on the Call:
Vancouver Sun - Ohly
Vancouver Sun – Skier Rescue