Sooke Fire and Rescue received a call in the mid-afternoon on Wednesday, May 21, alerting them to a possible “rope rescue” at the TLC-owned area of the Potholes.
At the old ruined lodge behind a fenced off area with “Danger — No Entry” signs posted, two rope climbers (one male, one female) met with a not-so-pleasant life experience. According to Fire Chief Steve Sorensen, the 25-year old male climber’s “rope broke as he was climbing back up possibly cut by sharp rocks. He slid part way until his feet hit something then he tumbled over and fell to the ground. Approximately 50 to 60 feet we estimate.”
The female sustained no injuries.
The man at the bottom of the cliff was injured.
“Broken arm, hip injury and lacerations,” listed Sorensen, later adding that the climber also suffered fractured vertebrae.
Because of the difficult terrain, other rescue resources were called in. Sorensen tweeted that they received help from the Langford and Metchosin fire departments, Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue, EHS and RCMP. In another tweet, Sorensen estimated there were over 36 rescue workers. at the scene. Due to the precarious landing (at the bottom of a cliff), it took the rescue workers several hours to get the man out.
Concerns for possible spinal injuries called for a stretcher rescue. When the Sooke News Mirror was there, rescue workers were contemplating either a carry-out, if a safe route could be determined, or a rope lift. Ultimately, rescue workers opted for the rope lift.
“It was too dangerous to take the person out any other way and the haul up the cliff was deemed the safest and quickest route,” said Sorensen. “A helicopter was considered but enough resources were on scene that this was deemed not necessary.”
Sorensen shared a few final words of wisdom, given that we are now entering the high-traffic season at the Sooke Potholes.
“Take precautions,” he warned. “There are many dangerous areas including cliffs… Cell phones are a good idea, however in many portions of the park, cell phone reception does not work. If you plan on hiking in the area, let someone know where you are going and (your) expected time of return.”
To climbers anywhere, Sorensen reminds them, “Ropes should be inspected before any use. If damaged in anyway, they should be taken out of service.” While this sounds obvious, clearly it needs to be re-stated.
And it’s not just hikers who need to take note; swimmers also need to take precautions.
“Watch out for swift dangerous currents,” reminds Sorenson.” We have done more than our share of drownings over the years.”
The TLC campground at the Sooke Potholes will not be open this year to campers.