Armed with his dog and years of experience, Campbell Riverite Dave Ratson’s recent unplanned overnight stay on Mount Washington wasn’t a huge deal.
Ratson went up for a day hike around the Lake Helen Mackenzie area, and over towards Mount Becher around 10 a.m. last Friday morning.
A little fog was coming in and out of the area throughout the day, but started to roll in heavily around 4 p.m., and caused Ratson to lose sight of landmarks he needed to get back out.
“I was frustrated at not being able to get a good bearing on which direction to head out,” said Ratson.
Because so much snow is left in the area this summer, trail markers are still hidden and hikers must use landmarks like hills and valleys. However, the fog prevented Ratson from seeing these in the distance.
Although Ratson had good boots and warm clothes, he didn’t have a cell phone, compass, map, or GPS. He walked around in circles for a while to no avail.
“At about nine o’clock at night, I started to realize, ‘I’m going to be here for the night,’” he said.
He managed to find a dry tree to shelter him – which was a struggle with snow – put on all his clothes, and prepared to spend the night with his dog, Willow, who is a “very good mountain companion.”
Although Ratson was exhausted, he said he was not anxious, as he’s had unplanned overnight stays about six times in his mountaineering experience.
Meanwhile, his son Alex, who knew the general area his father was in and was expecting him home around 7 p.m., decided to head up with a couple of friends at about 11 p.m. to look for his father.
Although an experienced mountaineer himself, in the wee hours of the morning Alex decided to call in some help.
About 30 search and rescue members from Campbell River, the Comox Valley, Mount Arrowsmith, and the Cowichan Valley joined forces to look for Ratson, according to the president of the B.C. Tracking Association, Win Koch.
Although the team looked for him during the early hours of the morning, Ratson walked out all by himself the next morning.
“He was prepared and he was familiar with the area,” Koch told /A Channel News.
“He had the right equipment and he knew what to do.”
Ratson was rushing to get out before the search got fully under way, and met up with crews at about 10:30 a.m. on the board walk near Battleship Lake.
He laughed as he said the biggest struggle of the night was trying to keep his dog next to him to keep warm.
His night spent under a tree won’t stop Ratson from heading out for a another trip soon.
“I love going out in the mountains, and this certainly doesn’t detract from my enthusiasm,” he said, adding he plans to go out again before the snow is gone this summer.