North Shore Rescue poised to break call-out record 

Organization fielded 139th call this year, tying record

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTH SHORE RESCUE - Rescuers deal with a severely injured man above Whyte Lake in West Vancouver, Saturday
  • Photo courtesy of North Shore Rescue
  • Rescuers deal with a severely injured man above Whyte Lake in West Vancouver, Saturday

A busy weekend in the backcountry has North Shore Rescue poised to break records for the highest number of call-outs they've had in a year.

"We had our 138th and 139th calls so we've tied our overall record in 2015," said Doug Pope, search manager.

On Saturday evening, the team located and rescued a severely injured man from a drainage area on lower Black mountain after he'd fallen off a cliff. He had been attempting to make it to Eagle Bluffs but went off-trail and was wandering the steep terrain above Whyte Lake when the incident happened.

"He said he had fallen between 30 and 60 feet off of a cliff and had hit his head and lost consciousness and broken his leg. He was saying he was going in and out of consciousness so we were quite concerned for his well-being," Pope said. "It was one of our more serious calls this year."

The hiker, who was visiting from Texas, had no idea where he was but he was lucid enough to find his GPS co-ordinates on his smartphone and give them to rescuers. The team sent in a helicopter with two physicians who splinted the hiker's broken femur and gave him pain medication while rescue crews rigged everyone into a long-line to evacuate. They took off just as darkness was falling.

The man was lucky, Pope said. If he had lost his cell signal or been left unconscious, he would likely still be in the drainage area.

"He was way off-trail. No one else would have been able to see him," he said. "He was far enough that no one would have heard him."

North Shore Rescue recommends never hiking alone, especially when you are in an unfamiliar territory. If you do find yourself lost and unable to retrace your steps, it's best to stay put and call for help, Pope said.

It was the second time that day, rescuers assisted someone with a broken leg. They had only just finished retrieving a 50-year-old woman who fractured her tibia about two kilometres up the snow-covered Howe Sound Crest Trail.

"About 15 members were involved in bringing her out by stretcher," Pope said.

That search and rescue mission took about three hours, Pope said.

This time of year, slips and falls are the leading cause of injuries above the tree line, Pope said, and rescuers recommend using microspikes, hiking poles and sturdy boots. When ice sets in, crampons are a must, Pope added.

Pope said it is likely 2015's dubious record will fall, given that the time around Christmas typically leads to a spike in calls for help.

Pope said the team is holding up fairly well, given the call volume, thanks to better organization within the team and having access to the advanced medical providers, who are trained to go into the field and available 24/7 allowing rescuers to focus on finding their subject and getting everyone in and out safely.

But, Pope added, what would be most helpful is if everyone heading out to the trails would make sure they are well prepared and researched before they go.

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