Victoria hikers rescued by helicopter from Strathcona park
COURTENAY -- Two women and a dog are safe after they were airlifted out of Strathcona Provincial Park by search and rescue volunteers early Thursday morning.
The friends, in their early 20s from Victoria, were on a three-day hike to Mount Albert Edward when they became disoriented and one was slightly injured in a fall Wednesday.
Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue leader Gord Thompson says the pair were well-equipped for their hike but ran into some misfortune.
"While they were coming down they got off route on a section where the terrain was too steep to continue onwards," Thompson says.
"They were able to get a cellphone signal and contacted us and we were able to get a location and we were able to drop a team in by helicopter just above them with a break in the weather," he says.
The weather quickly turned bad again, however, and prevented further action being taken Wednesday evening.
Krista Houston, a pilot from Grizzly Helicopters out of Campbell River, and two volunteer searchers made three attempts to extract the pair.
"We just lost the ceiling as it cooled. The ceiling came down and the visibility dropped and I couldn't go back in to get them," Houston said.
"It's very common, especially this time of year when we have unstable weather like that," she added.
Houston was finally able to fly the four out of the mountains and back to Mount Washington's Raven Lodge on Thursday morning.
Searchers Kirsten Anderson and Cliff Umpleby overnighted with the stranded hikers and said it was a cold and sleepless night.
"It was chilly but we were in pretty good spirits," said Anderson. "Thankfully we prepared ahead of time, (knowing) that we might have to stay out overnight."
The searchers say the women did the right thing by calling for help and not attempting to venture any further.
"They actually were at the base of a cliff and the terrain below that cliff was quite steep," said Umpleby.
"There was a lot of snow and if you got going on that snow you would slide out of control into rocks and timber or over other cliffs."
Searchers want to remind those heading into mountainous areas that Vancouver Island still has winter conditions. Navigational knowledge and skills are also important.
"We also want to remind everybody that relying on your cellphones for navigation on a multi-day trip is not the best option," said Thompson.