Rescue crews make tough decision to call off search for missing B.C. hikers

Cypress Mountain

North Shore Rescue crews arrived back at their base in a sombre mood last Friday when they decided to call off their search for two hikers lost on Cypress Mountain.

The crew had spent the past five days looking for 43-year-old Roy Lee and 64-year-old Chun Lam, who went snowshoeing on Christmas Day and have been missing since. According to reports, the pair’s vehicle was found abandoned in the parking lot of Cypress Mountain Ski Resort that day.

“At this point, due to the weather and the amount of snow that has fallen in the area, we believe that searchers on the ground have covered all areas that can be safely searched and all areas by aerial search as well,” Const. Jeff Palmer told CBC News.

North Shore Rescue (NSR) spokesman Mike Danks told CBC that he knew Friday would be a make-or-break day, which is why they brought in as many crews as they safely could, and covered some of the “more heinous terrain” by air. But even with 20 volunteers searching the steep slopes they hadn’t previously accessed, heavy snowfalls and high avalanche risk made the search especially difficult.

Danks expressed his frustration with the situation, not only because of the amount of effort the team put in, but because he says that he feels a lot of it could have been prevented if a trip plan was in place.

“It doesn’t help to reflect on that, but in the future hopefully people will see that you absolutely have to be prepared and you have to tell people where you’re going.”

A friend of the two men’s told reporters that Lam and Lee joined his hiking group in 2013, and that everyone in the group made  a point of being “well-prepared and well-equipped.” He says that he always reminded members of his group to share trip plans with family and friends before leaving.

But according to those who were in contact with the men that day, they packed light and weren’t bringing any overnight gear.

“I think they were just prepared for a day hike…six to seven hours at most—down the mountain before sunset,” Chan said.

Although the missing persons file is still open and future search operations are still under consideration, both Danks and Palmer expressed their condolences to the two men’s families, who have been notified that the search has been called off.

NSR crews are now urging skiers, boarders, and hikers to stay out of the backcountry, which is particularly dangerous with all of the snow the region has been receiving. This is the second time in three months that they’ve been unable to find a missing hiker on Cypress Mountain. Late last September. 65-year-old Debbie Blair was separated from her hiking group and was never found.