Task Report for overdue hikers on August 7 & 8. Posted on behalf of Bruce Moffat, NSR Search Manager:
Two male 28 year olds were dropped off on Friday afternoon around 3 pm with plans to hike for 7 hours into Elsay lake campgound. They relatively well equiped with the exception of a map, a spare light and raingear. They had looked at the favourable forecast for the weekend and decided to leave the raingear behind. Although they didn’t have a map, they did had a compass and knew how to use it; but when they later lost visability it was not very useful to them. Their smartphones with GPS apps were reliant on getting a signal and they lost that except when they were high up in elevation. They found the screen really small and difficult to navigate by. This was not ideal, as they lost the trail in the first 3 hours of their weekend and never found it again until they popped out on the final day near Brockton Point.
They had food and shelter so they decided since they were planning on being in there til Tuesday afternoon they may as well seek out a good spot to camp anyway. They did so on a prominence between Gopher Lake and Theta Lake, now apparently named David’s Peak until they ran out of water. They were able to take some photos and post them and their GPS coordinates on a facebook page which later gave us a good last known point to work from.
In need of water they spent the next couple of nights camped beside Gopher Lake. They then set off to hike out with one more night of planned camping. Not knowing where they were of course made this complicated. They skirted east, south and then west around the prominence heading up towards Depencier Lake after probing a little east of there. They did not make it to Depencier before night and camped part way up the ridge closest to the bluffs. Next day they hiked up and planned to hike out. They called their dad around 1 pm and said they would be out in 3 hours, a challenging estimating process when you are not sure where you are or where the parking lot is. Then, their attempts to get out were impaired by a huge thunderstorm which came in from the south causing concern for dad in the parking lot as it crashed around the mountains for hours after they were supposed to be out.
The subjects father called the RCMP looking to get some advise on the non emergency line and was directed to North Shore Rescue. After consulting with the RCMP it was agreed that they were equipped and safe, probably hunkering down (said they had some food left before the phone died), and that a plan should be formed for the morning if they did not walk out later that night.
The next morning, a SAR task was initiated. Searchers were sent to the last known point and a second helicopter team was going to move searchers to even more remote trail access as needed. Further Helicopter External Transport System (HETS) capability was arranged in the event they could not get out on their own. Due to low cloud cover the helicopter team checked the lower Indian Arm drainages probing regularly to see if they could get into the area. Eventually the cloud lifted enough to drop searchers off at Elsay Lake and also at Gopher Lake. While at Gopher Lake it was confirmed there were footprints that matched the description of the subjects. They were wearing heavily worn skate style runners, which made them relatively easy to distinguish, but were not acceptable footwear for the terrain. Injury could have been added to insult all too quickly
All in all there were 5 ground searchers, two search managers and three HETS team members active from start to finish and a couple more added as the search continued on through the day. Searching started at 8 am after a 7:30 briefing on Seymour and ended when the subjects managed to get a cell signal. This wasn’t until they were almost at the parking lot. A couple of hours later the ground and air teams were out of the field.
# of Searchers: 12
Volunteer Hours: 100