Two ill-equipped men are lucky to be alive after getting lost during a hike in the Harvey Basin area of the Sea-to-Sky mountains on Saturday, saved only by the fact they managed to find cell service.
When rescuers reached the men, in their early 20s and new to the area, they were shivering, their cotton clothes were frozen solid and their slip-on sneakers soaked through.
“They were in runners, one had shorts on, very light clothing. Once they got high, they were in the snow and they became lost. They missed the trail turnoff and they ended up going up an old, disused, overgrown logging road and got completely turned around and lost. They were lucky because their cell phone was going in and out of coverage, and most times it didn’t get through. But luckily we got a coordinate on them and managed to go to that location. It was a very rapid search, daylight was waning fast. We had two helicopters on and basically, we had only barely enough time to drop two teams in the field.”
– Search Manager Martin Colwell
The hikers had missed a turn off to the Lions Trail and continued on up the Harvey Basin trail until they eventually lost that trail in the snow-covered Alder. Wearing dark camouflaged clothing they were luckily spotted from the air and two teams were quickly dropped off on a nearby ridge. The teams made their way to the subjects over slick uneven terrain covered by roughly 20 cms of new snow.
The subjects were given a complete change of clothes, including proper hiking boots, and were warmed with heat vests and tea. Once they were capable, they hiked out safely with the field teams as Talon Helicopters had returned to YVR due to darkness. After a roughly three hour hike, the six LBSAR members and two subjects made it out of the field around 10:00 pm.
“Things could have turned out much worse last night. The subjects had not left a trip plan, not told anyone where they were going, had completely inappropriate clothing (especially footwear), had no flashlight, and did not backtrack and retrace their steps after they lost the trail. Had they not been located last night, we are doubtful that the outcome would have been so good.”
The close call Saturday is a reminder of the importance of being prepared, according to Colwell.