From the side of the Malahat highway looking onto the west face of Mount Finlayson, finding a lost hiker presents a needle in a haystack, even with binoculars.
“Try to shake a tree. You have a backpack? Can you wave it?” asks Langford fire Chief Bob Beckett, speaking to a lost hiker on a cellphone. “Don’t fall.”
At a distance of about 600 metres, waving his jacket works as a pinprick of movement emerges from the pine trees and exposed slabs of mossy rock.
About three-quarters the way down the mountain, and facing steeper and steeper cliffs, around 1:30 p.m. today the 27-year-old Courtenay man made the wise choice to stop moving and call 9-1-1.
Officials say the man hiked up Finlayson but veered off marked trails and wound up lost and disoriented in treacherous territory. “He got off track into an area that is a bit suspect. It’s a (steep) grade with loose shale,” Beckett remarks.
Once spotted at 2:30 p.m., a rescue team of half a dozen firefighters were dispatched to the Bear Mountain side of Mount Finlayson, to hike in from the golf course. They found him in about an hour.
“He’s not prepped for overnight but he’s prepped for a day hike,” says West Shore RCMP Const. Justin Floyd.
It was a cold day and he was found well before sunset. “He called at a good time. It was just a matter of plucking him off (the mountain). It’s good he didn’t wait to call at 4 p.m.”