Seven people were rescued earlier this week after hiking a closed trail and getting lost northeast of Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain.
The hikers—a group of Vancouverites in their late 30s and early 40s—set out on their trip at around 10 a.m. on Sunday. According to reports, they ignored multiple signs saying the route is closed in the winter. The group made it as far as Crown Pass before they lost the trail due to inexperience and poor weather conditions.
Luckily, they were able to get cell service and called for help at around 6 p.m.
“The only thing I can say they did well is they recognized that they were lost, they called for help, and they stayed put,” North Shore Search and Rescue team leader, Mike Danks, told Metro News.
The group was hiking on the closed Hanes Valley Trail, which runs from Lynn Creek to the top of Grouse Mountain. The trail is meant for experienced hikers in peak physical condition and is considered a difficult hike in the summer. In the winter, it’s not only a tough trail, it’s also prime avalanche territory.
“The area is closed for a reason,” Danks told CBC News. “There’s high avalanche danger in the Hanes Valley so we don’t want people going in those areas. It puts our members at risk to go back there to bring these people out, and it seems to be happening more and more often.”
The search and rescue team carried out an avalanche assessment to determine if conditions were safe before heading out. If they hadn’t been, the hikers would have been forced to stay the night, which could have had dire consequences. Danks told Metro News that some of the hikers were already showing signs of hypothermia by the time they reached safety in the early morning hours.
North Shore Rescue wants to remind those heading into the backcountry to ensure they’re well prepared for winter conditions. They also want them to know that help isn’t guaranteed.
“We just want to make sure that people understand that by taking this risk, by going into these closed areas, we’re not always going to be there to help them if it’s too dangerous for our own people,” Danks said. “They’re very lucky that no one was injured.”