Not long ago, calls like these would have had large teams of volunteers spending long nights in the desert with seriously injured individuals
North Shore Rescue rescued two adventurers from several life-and-death situations in the backcountry Sunday night.
At approximately 4.30pm, Lions Bay Search and Rescue alerted the team of a paraglider that had fallen on the west side of Brunswick Mountain and become tangled in trees with broken bones.
“He had a bad pitch, which ended up with him basically tumbling off that cliff,” said North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks. “Subject was practically hanging from an old stump. It reached into his ropes and stopped him from falling further, but left him hanging precariously upside down.
Members of the Lions Bay team, including a doctor, began reaching the site on foot, however the cold weather and difficult terrain meant the safest way out would be from the air.
Fortunately, Talon Helicopter’s Dauphin was available, which can fly in the dark and lift rescuers in and out of dangerous terrain. Volunteers got to work giving the man painkillers and packing him into a stretcher.
Getting the man back on foot would have required a complicated rope rescue and a team of about 25 people, Danks estimated.
“The fact that we had a helicopter with night vision capabilities and a car with lifting capabilities probably saved his life, because getting him out of that area overland would have been incredibly challenging,” he said. “The fact that he is now warm and safe in the hospital is quite indicative.”
Before the call had even ended, the team was charged again, this time for a man who had fallen while at St. Marks Summit on the Howe Sound Crest Trail in Cypress Provincial Park.
“He was in severe pain,” Danks said.
North Shore Rescue search managers dispatched two ground crews, including their medic, while Talon’s helicopter pilots refueled for another night lift.
They arrived around the same time and worked together to get the man ready for a quick plane takeoff.
Again, Danks credits the Dolphin and the volunteers’ high level of training.
“You’re dealing with very cold conditions, steep terrain and it’s icy. And then you have to deal with someone who’s on a stretcher,” Danks said. “It was within an hour that we were able to get him basically back to our Cap Gate SAR station and handed over to BC Ambulance.”
In the three months they’ve won provincial approval to perform the night lifts, Danks said it’s proved to be an incredibly valuable tool, saving hundreds of volunteer hours and overnights inland, and providing injured people with better care. medical procedures as quickly as possible, all with minimal risk for the volunteers
But he warned that the helicopter won’t always be available, leaving everyone at the mercy of the old ‘ground and pound’.
“That’s why we have so many members on our team and that’s why we really push to keep rope rescue skills high and keep our members engaged because you never know when you’re going to need the full call out,” he said.
The best way out of the mountains will always be on one’s own feet, which means being well equipped is a must, Danks said. Anyone planning to be on the trails in the winter should have at least micro spikes, and trekking poles are recommended. They should also have another means of calling for help if they intend to be out of cell range and be prepared to survive a night in the cold if necessary.