A climber on Golden Ears Mountain suffered a 70-metre fall on Sunday afternoon, but she and her partner both survived their ordeal, after being lifted off the mountainside by helicopters.
Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue spokesperson Rick Laing described a perilous scene.
The couple, approximately in their late 20s, had reached the summit of the popular peak in Golden Ears Provincial Park, near Maple Ridge. The seasoned outdoor adventurers chose to spent the night on the mountain. They were making their way down just before noon when the woman fell.
She had followed some old flagging tape which led them astray – down a steep couloir, or chute.
The woman suffered a fall of some 20 storeys, tumbling over rocks, becoming airborne, and landing on snow. She was fortunate to be able to stop her descent before she fell further, as there was rocks below her.
She gripped the snow and remained motionless, realizing the consequences if she were to slide any further down the 45 degree slope.
“If she had slipped further, it could have ended up quite tragic,” said Laing. “She knew the predicament she was in.”
Her partner tried to reach the injured woman, attempting to climb down the steep, rocky slope she had fallen down, but he reached a place where he could not safely descend further, without facing a fall himself.
He was able to get out an emergency call at about 11:45 a.m.
They were very prepared, and had an inReach satellite signalling device that gave their exact location, which Laing said was a “huge” assistance to their rescue.
Laing said crews moved quickly, not knowing the extent of the fallen woman’s injuries.
RMSAR summoned Talon Helicopters as well as Coquitlam SAR to respond as part of the regional specialty team that performs long-line rescues.
“When we flew in, she was face down, prone on the snow, but she could move her head and hands, so we knew she was alive and conscious,” said Laing.
Higher up, in red, they could see her partner.
Three Ridge Meadows and one Coquitlam SAR team members were inserted into the scene. The injured woman was secured and readied for transport on a rescue platform, and the male was in a harness called a screamer suit, and prepared for the airlift out.
BC Air Ambulance, as well as an ambulance and paramedic supervisor, were on the ground at West Canyon Command waiting for the arrival of the subject. Talon Helicopters brought rescuers and subjects back, where the fall victim was examined and transferred to Air Ambulance for the flight out to the hospital.
Despite the height of the fall, she escaped with relatively minor injuries and the male hiker was unscathed.
The rescue was exactly the kind of scenario that the RMSAR team members train for, said Laing, and had a rewarding conclusion for the rescuers.
“This was a great example of years of training and cooperation paying off in a dramatic rescue of two hikers, who were well prepared and suffered an unfortunate accident,” said Laing.