lHope and Chilliwack rescue organizations plucked four hikers off of Needle Peak over the BC Day long weekend, in daring rescues with helicopters flown in from Vancouver as local resources remain tied up in wildfire response.
On Saturday shortly after 2 p.m. Hope Volunteer Search and Rescue (Hope SAR) received a call from two hikers trapped on a rocky ledge on the west side of Needle Peak near the summit. After sliding down a steep portion of the mountain, one of the hikers pinned his arm in between a boulder and the rock face.
“In order to not fall off the ledge, he had wedged his arm between a boulder and the mountain to hold himself in place. His partner that he had been with was up on another ledge in a position a little less dangerous, but still, nonetheless not a good spot,” said Noelle Hartt, media liaison officer with Hope SAR.
Hope requested mutual aid from Chilliwack Search and Rescue’s helicopter external transport system (HETS) team. The HETS system uses a longline to bring in or evacuate search members to places which would otherwise be too risky or inaccessible by other methods. Chilliwack is one of four volunteer search and rescue teams in B.C. with a HETS team.
Both hikers were longlined to safety. The hiker who had wedged himself to the mountain escaped with only a few abrasions, after being checked out by ambulance personnel he was able to leave on his own.
Sunday during an ongoing fire response in Hope’s Silver Creek neighbourhood, a Hope SAR manager who is also a firefighter received a call shortly after 5 p.m. Again, a hiker was trapped near the Needle Peak summit.
Hartt said the hiker had wrenched his knee while hiking with another person, he was unable to walk. Chilliwack’s HETS team was again called to take over the call, with Hope SAR assisting.
“They were able to fly the helicopter up to the top, go to the patient and put the patient into the helicopter rather than long lining. And then brought him right to Hope,” Hartt said. The injured hiker had all the gear he needed to be hiking and was experienced, but Hartt said the injury is something he couldn’t have foreseen.
As people continue to explore B.C.’s great outdoors including popular spots in the Coquihalla Summit recreation area, Hartt reminded hikers to be prepared for situations like what happened this weekend.
“Be prepared, make sure people know where you’re going and the time that you’re supposed to be coming back at. And if you can carry a cell phone, even better,” she said. “And not to wait to call for help, instead of waiting for dark.”
For both rescues, helicopters were flown in from Vancouver-based Talon Helicopters as all others were tied up fighting fires in the Interior.
“It was a little bit of a struggle to find a helicopter that could manage the HETS team,” Hartt said. Sunday’s rescue, for example, was close to being called off until the morning as the light was waning, however, a helicopter was brought there in time.
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