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RCMP see a busy week for rescues

Four people get lost skiing past the boundary on Glacier Road

A week of heavy snow precipitated a week of heavy traffic on emergency lines regarding lost skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. Several rescues required the assistance of Search and Rescue teams and the use of helicopters to locate and transport callers from the backcountry.

On Feb. 22, the RCMP got a call at 6:31 p.m. regarding a group of four that went missing during a ski lesson. According to reports, the party - three men and one woman - had continued skiing past the boundary on Glacier Road, and did not meet up with the group at the Excalibur Express.

Ski patrol had already swept the mountain but called the grooming team to be on the lookout for the group, which had broken into pairs after getting separated. The group stayed in phone contact with the RCMP, which was waiting until morning to start the search.

However, the first group managed to get back inbounds by 1 a.m. and the RCMP went up the mountain to meet the two. The other two came out at 6 a.m.

There were no injuries, and other than being cold the people were in good health.

The group is described as from out of country, and between the ages of 35 and 45.

On the same day, the RCMP received a report of missing snowmobilers on the Pemberton Ice Cap. The group of three men left at 10 a.m. from the Rutherford Creek access, and made their way to the Ice Cap where one sled broke down.

A relative of one of the sledders was alerted to the issue when an emergency button was pressed on their emergency beacon. She then went to the computer to track their movements on GPS and assumed that they were walking out.

The alert was cancelled about 10 minutes later, but the relative called the RCMP anyway just before 8 p.m. - a good decision, as the alert was shut off in error.

At 8:10 p.m. the RCMP got a call from one of the men, a 34-year-old from Whistler, who had left to get help. His sled had run out of gas about 10 km from the parking area, leaving him to walk out the rest of the way.

As for the other two men, a father and son from Squamish aged 28 and 56, it was revealed that one of the sleds had broken down, and the other sled attempted to tow it out - something that caused the other sled to burn through gas faster and leave them stranded. They were well prepared and spent the night in a snow cave until the Pemberton Search and Rescue could respond the following morning. They were located at 10 a.m. and brought to safety, where they were examined by paramedics and released.

At 6:39 p.m. on Feb. 23, the RCMP was notified of an emergency call from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, after they received a call from someone stranded in the Blackcomb Backcountry "at a river." The RCMP attempted to call and text the phone, and to locate the phone by GPS, but received no response.

It was a concern to the RCMP with temperatures dropping to -26 C that night, and they continued to investigate during the evening while it was too dark to conduct a helicopter search.

In the morning, a helicopter picked up two ski patrollers/search and rescue volunteers and went searching. There were two possible areas for the searchers, Fitzsimmons Creek and Wedge Creek, and at 9:55 a.m. they found a group of three males from Ontario in the Wedge Creek area, and brought them to safety.

On Feb. 25 at 2:16 p.m. the RCMP receive a call regarding a snowmobiler near Grizzly Lake on Powder Mountain that fell into a 20-foot hole and landed chest-deep in open water.  Search and Rescue attended with two helicopters to perform a long-line rescue of the man, who had found a ledge to step onto.

He was pulled up using a long line, and transported to the heliport by the helicopter for transport to the health care centre by ambulance with signs of hypothermia. He was treated and later released.

There were seven people in the party, including the man - identified as a 48-year-old from White Rock.

The RCMP pointed out that he was not the first person to fall into a hole in the area, after responding to a similar call involving two snowmobilers the previous week.

At 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 26, the RCMP received a request for support from Blackcomb Ski Patrol regarding a group of four males that called in lost from the Wedge Creek area.

Unable to fly that night, the Search and Rescue were called in to search the next morning. They found the men near the Phalanx Glacier where they started a fire to stay warm and camped for the night, and flew them back to Whistler.

According to the RCMP, the men had skied into the area with avalanche safety gear, but one of the men did not have skins to climb back out of the bowl. Unwilling to leave their friend behind, the three others stayed with him that night. One of the men called his girlfriend to say they were lost before they lost contact, and she called the RCMP.