17:30 Tuesday night my pager goes off “Lost skier on Grouse – all members call in status and respond.” I was just finishing up my workout at the gym – unfortunately I was doing legs and back, not a great combination before a search.
I jumped in my truck and headed back to North Vancouver. I grabbed all my winter gear including, avalanche beacon, probe, shovel, snowshoes, poles, parka, stove, lots of extra clothes, flares, tarp, first aid, power bars, head lamps, batteries, GPS…etc. My winter pack weight ranges from 50-70lbs.
Driving to the mountain my thermometer on my truck read -9 C. So that would mean its about -15, -16 C on the hill, and with wind that could drop much further. It was going to be a cold one.
I was then tasked out with Greg and Mike to sign cut off of the left of the Olympic Chair. As we were about to start our assignment, Air 1 (RCMP Chopper) radioed in and reported that they had sighted the subject in Kennedy Gully. A completely different area than was originally suspected. Generally we don’t have air support at night, as many pilots are not qualified/licensed to fly in the mountains at night, but apparently this pilot was an experienced mountain pilot. He had just cut hours off of our search, and saved the subject from severe hypothermia. It would have taken us hours of searching to find him, had he not spotted him from the air.
A search team was immediately dispatched into Kennedy Creek drainage and we were assigned to back them up. The chopper hovered above the subject long enough for the advance team to spot the location and then had to return to Vancouver, due to low fuel.
It took the team in front of us a few hours to reach the subject, and we followed in behind them to assist. The main concern was avalanche hazard, as the snow was fresh and deep and they were heading into a drainage. Greg, Mike and I hung back at the top of the pass away from avalanche danger in case we had to go in to provide rescue to the rescuers.
The advance team located the subject, and provided him with snowshoes, water and some food and started hiking back. In the mean time we hunkered down in the snow, watching the temperature drop on our thermometers. We quickly found that even with parkas on etc. it was too cold to sit, so we kept warm stomping out “Helicopter pads” in the snow.
Tim let us know that the “heli-pads” were wishful thinking on our part. I think Tim felt bad about making us sit in the deep freeze, but as I said later – it was a good character building experience.
The advance search team and subject met up with our “camp” an hour later and we hiked out together exiting the trail around 01:00. The subject met up with his new wife at the base, and thanked everyone for rescuing him – a good end for our first customer of the winter season.
There will be more.