North Shore Rescue expected to break call-out record by year’s end

North Shore Rescue says it's tied its all-time record for the number of rescues in one year, with more than two weeks still to go, and the snow starting to fall. Sarah MacDonald reports.

On the heels of an exceptionally busy weekend for rescuers, North Shore Rescue’s volunteers are pleading with the public to use common sense while venturing into the province’s backcountry—in what’s poised to be a record-breaking year for call-outs.

“As of the weekend, with two pretty serious searches, we’ve now matched our total for the highest year [of calls], which was 2015,” said North Shore Rescue search manager Peter Haigh. “139 calls to date, this year, so far.”

And with three weeks still remaining in 2018, this year is poised to break the standing record for rescues on the North Shore. Crews are bracing for a spike in call-outs typical of the holiday season, as students are let out of class and many local workers enjoy winter vacation.

The team’s 138th and 139th call-outs happened within 24 hours of each other over the weekend—with both call-outs involving subjects with broken legs. The first, on Saturday afternoon, involved a 50-year-old woman who required rescuing from the Howe Sound Crest Trail, where she had been hiking with a group of more than a dozen people.

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READ MORE: North Shore Search and Rescue help two separate hikers with leg injuries

The second call-out, that evening, involved a tourist from Texas who broke his femur after falling off a cliff while going off-trail on the challenging Eagle Bluffs hike. Officials say he fell roughly 20 metres, and was in and out of consciousness when he was discovered by rescuers, just as dusk approached. Rescuers say he was lucky—and his ability to notify search crews of his GPS coordinates likely saved his life.

“He broke his femur, which is very serious. He was on his own, and was blacking in and out,” explained Haigh. “That he had cell coverage was in his favour—that he could actually make the call. He really didn’t know where he was, except that he was on the Baden Powell Trail.”

North Shore Rescue is once again reiterating what has become the organization’s annual warning: to be prepared if you do venture into the backcountry, and to never go alone. Its volunteers are reminding hikers that seemingly mild conditions at trailheads can be deceiving—as rain at lower elevations can quickly freeze to ice and snow at higher elevations, where it can be too late for ill-prepared hikers to turn back.

“I don’t believe they realize how dangerous it is so close to the city,” said Haigh. “People can be within view of the city, and they’re stuck either off a trail, or near a waterfall, or in very dangerous terrain. And not always do they have cell coverage.”

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Haigh says members of North Shore Rescue are cautiously optimistic they won’t be called out over the holiday season—but they’re not holding their breath.

“We’ve got over half a month to go,” said Haigh. “So, I guess we’re going to exceed 139.”

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