The hikers could not find the trail and were very cold. They had cell contact, and SAR Manager Al Hurley was able to direct one of them to the summit of Triangulation Point where they were told to hold position. Talon Helicopters was activated.
As this was a late day call, time was extremely critical; the sun sets at approximately 4:20 this time of year, and if the helicopter was unable to reach the subjects it would result in a protracted ground-based rescue. Incidents at that location on Eagle Ridge have taken in excess of 9 hours to resolve in the past.
The hikers were fortunate in several respects; Talon Helicopters pilot Kelsey Wheeler was at their base, and was in the air in just a few minutes. Coquitlam SAR Manager Jim Delgrande was hiking on Eagle Ridge, and was able to make his way to our helicopter LZ at Buntzen Lake to meet the helicopter.
Delgrande was inserted near Triangulation Point, and assessed the subjects; they were cold, and very lightly dressed in cotton clothing. One was wearing running shoes; two complained of not being able to feel their feet, and were shivering. All three subjects were escorted to the helicopter, and flown to the LZ at Buntzen Lake.
Eagle Ridge in winter is the same elevation as most of the North Shore mountains. It’s got three to six feet of snow on it. It’s only accessible from three trails, all of which have a lot of elevation gain. Tackling a hike in this area in the winter and spring requires fitness, preparation, and appropriate clothing and footwear. Preferably, hikers would have experience in winter travel, including avalanche rescue and travel on icy terrain, as well as navigation skills as trails and markers are very hard to find in the snow.
Coquitlam SAR would like to highlight the seriousness of the situation these three hikers were in. Already shivering and very cold at sunset, they would have been waiting at least another three to four hours before SAR members would have been able to access the area, and even longer before they could be airlifted out. If they had not called when they did, if their cell phone had run out of power, if Talon Helicopters had not been available, or of Jim Delgrande had not been hiking in the area, this could have been a life threatening incident for all of them.