On July 03 CR SAR was tasked to respond to assist BC Ambulance with the medevac an injured hiker on the Golden Hinde, Vancouver Island’s highest peak.
We got the call at 1900 hrs. from BC Ambulance to pick up an injured hiker who had made a broken cell phone call to report that he required an air ambulance evacuation due to an injury. The information we received was sketchy, no call back number and no idea of the injuries involved, but luckily we did get a set of GPS coordinates.
This is a popular area for back country users, it’s a very remote rugged area that requires at least two days of overland travel just to reach the Golden Hinde, then summit time and return can easily make it a 5-7 day trip. Historically we respond to this area at least once a year, we went last year and performed a similar type rescue, we get called to this area for injuries and exhaustion on a regular basis. It’s such a remote area becoming inured or overcome by exhaustion or running low on food makes it a very dangerous place to be.
This is Vancouver Island’s Highest peak and the terrain around the area is rugged and covered in snow and ice most of the year.
CRSAR dispatched a helicopter with three SAR members and first aid gear to the site. We encountered low cloud at the 1400 meter level which prevented us from taking a direct route to the GPS coordinates we had. We had to circumnavigate the Golden Hinde poking holes through the low cloud before we found a hole to fly through and we then were able to locate the subjects at the 1800 meter level. Initially we were expecting one subject but we found two men huddled just below the peak on a snowy patch of rock outcropping.
Upon landing we found two men set up beside a fire waiting for us. We assessed that the one male had sustained lower limb injuries while descending from the peak across a snow field. They had managed to descend to the 1800 meter mark where they set up a small camp while a third man descended to an even lower camp point approx. 3 kms away to prepare for the hike out.
We did a quick assessment of the injuries and decided to evacuate the two men to an ambulance, but we also had the issue of locating the third man as he wouldn’t know that we had located the other two men and we couldn’t be sure of his status and we didn’t want to leave him alone in the back country as he had the bulk of the hiking parties gear and wouldn’t be able to get it all out alone.
We had a failing daylight issue compounded with a low ceiling so we decided to do a quick recon of the area we suspected the other man to be to see if we could locate him and make contact. After 10 minutes of flying we located the man at a lower elevation camp, we landed and decided to let the uninjured male out to join his companion, they in turn would hike out the gear over the following days, which freed us up to evac the injured party out. It worked out well as the two uninjured males didn’t need to be evac so we left them in place with all their equipment and flew the injured male back to Campbell River where he was transferred over to BC Ambulance.
Over all it was a good rescue, if we didn’t have the GPS coordinates it might have led to an extended search as the low ceiling of cloud made for a slow limited air search, having the coordinates gave us the ability to fly directly to the site. The Golden Hinde area is huge and has multiple approaches for hikers and climbers and trying to find a person on the ground looking down onto rock, snow, ice and heavy forest can be very difficult.
The summer can be very busy for us and we do a lot of medical rescues throughout the region, and we expect this summer will be the same. We caution all back county users to have the proper equipment, maps, and communications equipment, such as cell phones, satellite phones or PLB’s, Personal Locator Beacons, which can communicate to the outside world. Leave a trip plan and emergency plan details with family. Don’t over estimate your ability and leave yourself plenty of time to complete the journey.
– Contributed by Campbell River Search and Rescue.