The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue rope team spent a long, cold, wet night clinging to a ledge above Cameron Lake Sunday as they attempted to rescue a stranded climber on Wesley Ridge.
Search manager Gordon Yelland said ASAR received a call to scramble at 7:15 p.m. after a lone hiker got stranded and called for help.
“He got hiking up there with a couple of his dogs and got into an area he couldn’t get off of, but he had his cell phone with him, so he called for help,” Yelland said. “We were able to get out there and assess the situation and get a team of three rope experts into a helicopter and drop them down from above to try to get down to him and find a route down.”
Meanwhile, he said, a second team of five rescue technicians began hiking up the mountain to find his route from below.
However, it wasn’t long before darkness fell, meaning the rope team had to hunker down for a long, cold, wet night.
“Darkness came in to the point where our mountain rope guys couldn’t operate safely on sheer cliffs,” Yelland said. “They were still quite a way from the subject, so we requested Comox 442 Squadron to bring in Cormorant, but they couldn’t come, so we elected to use Campbell River’s Helicopter External transport system.”
This system, he said, involves a long line under helicopter, with a SAR tech attached to it.
“The idea is they harness up the subject and fly him out of there to a landing area,” Yelland said. “Unfortunately, the weather didn’t co-operate and it started raining in the early morning and clouds settled in.”
With no hope of rescue from above or below, both the rope rescue team and the hiker were forced to hunker down.
“The rope people are stuck and can’t get to him and it is very, very difficult climbing conditions, with a lot of loose rock and shale and trees and branches and such,” Yelland said. “To keep them as safe as possible, we elected to have them stay put overnight. They spent the night in a rain storm on a cliff ledge. They’re cold and wet and quite tired.”
The hiker continued to text to his wife at home and to the police until about 3 a.m., when rescuers believe his batteries went dead. However, Yelland said he was able to start a fire and was in relatively good spirits.
At first light, another team began scaling the ridge from the Horne Lake side in an attempt to go over the top and see if there was a possibility of reaching the stranded team and the subject.
Taking advantage of a window in the weather, Yelland said the Campbell River helicopter team was able to rescue the 32-year-old hiker and his dogs. However, the ASAR team had to wait for the Cormorant helicopter from Comox before they were able to get warm and dry.
All subjects were reported to be in good shape.