Campbell River Search and Rescue (CRSAR) team members made good use of their training and resources during an overnight rescue on Vancouver Island’s tallest mountain this week.
Three climbers called the rescue service after finding themselves stuck on the side of The Golden Hinde with little daylight, and without the proper equipment to descend the slope.
CRSAR search manager Daryl Beck said it was not an average rescue.
“Normally, we’re able to bring people back the same day we leave,” he said. In this instance, three SAR members had to bivouac – stay in a temporary camp with little shelter – with the climbers.
“It was a full 12-hour-plus operation,” Beck noted.
The call for assistance came in shortly after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4. As the mountain is quite deep in the backcountry, CRSAR found themselves in a race against the setting sun.
“SAR members cannot fly at night,” Beck said. “So we need to be on the ground at just after sunset.”
The team’s helicopter dropped off two search members, and rendezvoused with a road crew, who had brought in additional equipment to a boat launch near Buttle Lake.
The pair hiked up the mountain to where the call came from, and met with a third SAR member who took a different route. Together they escorted the climbers down to a more suitable place to spend the night.
It was 2:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, by the time they could stop safely.
Poor preparation was the a factor in the need for rescue, Beck said.
“These fellas weren’t experienced climbers, he said. “They were using an app on their cell phone that they had downloaded to hike up the mountain, and it didn’t have the type of information a climber would need.”
The search manager also noted the three climbers did not take into account the importance of a turnaround time – the point hikers/climbers set in advance to mark the time they have to turnaround on the climb or trail in order to get back to a place of safety.
“They just kept going,” he said. “They had their goal in mind, and they were young, strong guys, but not so experienced in mountain work.”
Beck noted it does not matter if people are climbing a mountain or just going for a hike into the meadows, a turnaround time is crucial to stick to.
He praised the work the search members put in during the rescue, and leading up to it too.
“The training the members of our mountain rescue team undertake gives us the skills to be able to perform one of these types of rescues in a safe manner.”
Eric Teramura – who took part in the rescue – is an avid climber who has been a part of CRSAR since 2018.
“We’ve been training for this type of call for a few years now with Island Alpine Guides,” he said. “It’s really nice for it to all pay off and get to use the technical skills we did.”
He added the climbers who called were very grateful for the help.
“They were really embarrassed and sorry,” he said. “We assured them this happens, and you’ve just got to learn from it.”
Teramura said it was a relief the climbers made the decision to call when they did.
“Going down in the dark with one headlamp, exhausted and not really knowing where to go, could have turned out even worse.
“There are lots of places where you can mess yourself up pretty good there.”