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Stranded climbers airlifted from North Shore’s West Lion

Click to play video: 'Search and rescue crews see a spike in calls' Search and rescue crews see a spike in calls
Search and rescue crews see a spike in calls – Jun 27, 2020

Rescue crews used a helicopter to pluck a pair of stranded climbers off the West Lion, Sunday morning.

It was at least the 27th search and rescue call across B.C. this weekend, and crews say it’s yet another reminder to stick to easy hikes during the pandemic.

Read more: B.C. search and rescue crews continue to see a surge in calls

Lions Bay SAR manager Martin Colwell said the pair was making their way up the northeast ridge of the West Lion, made a wrong turn and became trapped in steep terrain.

“That’s a very steep, serious alpine route,” he said.

“As they were climbing this they were basically getting into more trouble.”

Click to play video: 'A climbing group rescued from a glacier near Squamish had to spend a cold night outdoors' A climbing group rescued from a glacier near Squamish had to spend a cold night outdoors
A climbing group rescued from a glacier near Squamish had to spend a cold night outdoors – Jul 5, 2020

They had climbing gear, thin jackets and food and water, and Colwell said they hunkered down for the night and called for help.

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“Just by chance, we happened to have one of our team members, a member in training, camping overnight on the summit of the West Lion, and he made voice contact,” said Colwell.

Two North Shore Rescue team members were able to long-line in on Sunday morning, and pull the climbers out in one flight, he said.

But Colwell said it’s another example of people biting off more than they can chew.

“It just seems to be an explosion of rescue calls right now,” he said.

Read more: Caution urged in B.C. backcountry as search-and-rescue teams see surge in calls

In fact, the B.C. Search and Rescue Association says it fielded 110 calls in the first two weeks of July, a 50 per cent increase over the same period last year. That’s causing problems for SAR teams, given COVID-19 conditions.

“It’s very difficult because you can’t keep the spacing you should have, in the helicopter even, you can put masks on but you’re still quite close together,” said Colwell.

“Even worse is on the long-line situation where everyone is quite literally huddled together on the single line.

“The message is stick to safe and straightforward hikes and climbs so that you don’t have the risk of getting into trouble.”

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