For Campbell River Search and Rescue (CRSAR), Tuesday night is normally set aside for practices.
But practice night was interrupted this week by a medical rescue call from the Bella Coola RCMP shortly after 7 p.m. It was the start of a busy evening.
A climber had plummeted from a rock face, falling by more than 12 metres, according to a media release from CRSAR.
“We immediately activated our rope rescue,” said CRSAR manager Grant Cromer in the statement.
The crew deployed by helicopter for the two-hour flight to Bella Coola.
With daylight fading, it would be a “close call to get a team there” before nightfall, he said.
But by the time the chopper was about 20 minutes outside of Bella Coola, CRSAR heard that a forestry helicopter had landed and first responders rescued the man.
He received medical treatment in Bella Coola, Cromer said.
Meanwhile, CRSAR received another call at about 8:15 p.m., this time for a missing hiker on a trail near Sayward.
The hiker, it turned out, had been delayed and managed to “self-rescue” while CRSAR responded.
But the rapid-fire sequence of calls for service underlined the challenges faced by the local search and rescue group, which serves a vast area that includes the North Island and remote stretches of the coastal Mainland.
“I would like to say it’s rare to have two calls running at the same time, but it’s not,” said Cromer, noting that the group functions with limited equipment and manpower when simultaneous incidents take place.
“This type of call volume is typical for this time of year,” said Cromer, noting that good weather brings many people out for recreational activities.
The difficulties are greater when more than one specialized rescue is required, but Cromer noted that “we can always activate neighbouring SAR groups to assist if needed.”
He added that CRSAR is the northernmost search and rescue group on the Island, and said “we pretty much take ownership of the coast up to Bella Coola.”
That means extensive helicopter travel, since the choppers allow for “quick access to some pretty remote regions along the coast.”