North Shore Rescue has broken their record for the number of callouts in a year after fetching two lost hikers from a creek drainage on Grouse Mountain (and responding to one false alarm) last week.
The team received a request from North Vancouver RCMP around 6:40 p.m. Thursday after a disturbing 911 call came in.
“It was a young lady saying she was lost on Grouse saying ‘I need a rescue’ and the call dropped,” said Doug Pope, search manager. “We didn’t have much to go on and we didn’t have anywhere to search at that point.”
A man and woman from North Vancouver had hiked up to the base of The Cut ski run from the top of Skyline Drive with their two dogs to do some sliding but got lost on their return.
Rescuers later learned the one phone they brought with them had died. The couple managed to eke a bit more battery life by warming it up with their body heat and place another 911 call.
From the scant information they had, the search managers had to use some Sherlock-like deduction to place their lost subjects. They reported being in about five centimetres of snow, which suggested they were around 700 metres elevation, Pope said.
And there are pockets of the front side of Grouse where people are known to lose cell reception – particularly around Mosquito Creek.
“They got themselves into some very difficult terrain in Mosquito Creek drainage and it got dark so it went from bad to worse for them. And then they heard what they thought was a cougar in the dark. They heard a low growl and that really spooked them,” Pope said.
Rescuers found the lost pair after sending two teams in using off-road vehicles on the gravel path that starts at the top of Mountain Highway, going the rest of the way on foot.
“They were scared, cold and wet. They had two small dogs with them as well. But they were in reasonable shape. They were in difficult terrain but we were able to lead them off of that and out,” Pope said.
If you find yourself lost in the snow, it’s best to try to follow your own tracks back to the trail, Pope said. And always resist the urge to walk downhill, which almost always leads to steep terrain, cliffs and drainages on the North Shore.
Dogs in the backcountry are often perceived as prey by cougars, Pope warned, and off-leash dogs also have a tendency to instigate interaction with bears.
“The first thing a dog does when it gets chased by a big bear is go back to its owner,” Pope said.
The pair and their rescuers finally made it out of the bush by about 1:30 a.m. Friday, competing the 141st callout of the year for North Shore Rescue.
The previous record of 139 was set in 2015. The record-breaking call came in on Dec. 15 but proved to be anti-climactic.
A hiker on Dog Mountain reported a plane going down but it turned out to be a pilot practising nose-dives and NSR stood down
Pope said anyone travelling in the backcountry this time of year should also check the Avalanche Canada forecast and not travel into any high-risk areas unless they’ve had avalanche training and are well-equipped with avalanche beacons and probes.