LSR members were assisted by North Shore Search and Rescue to extract a hiker who got lost in extreme winter conditions. (Faye Hjort photo)

LSR members were assisted by North Shore Search and Rescue to extract a hiker who got lost in extreme winter conditions. (Faye Hjort photo)

Ladysmith Search and Rescue saves poorly equipped hiker lost overnight

North Shore Search and Rescue responded with a helicopter to safely extract the hiker

Ladysmith Search and Rescue (LSR) was activated early Sunday (Feb. 14) morning to search for a woman who was lost in the wilderness in the Timberlands and Cassidy area.

The call came in at around 4:45 a.m., a team of seven LSR members responded and began searching the area. The hiker’s vehicle was found at Rondalyn Campground on Timberlands Road by the Ladysmith RCMP at around midnight. An employee at Rondalyn said that the hiker’s car had been parked there since at least 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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“Nobody knew where she went. We had a huge area to search and find where she was. There were no tracks in the snow by the time we got there,” LSR Search Manager Tim Chadwick said.

The hiker’s phone had just enough life left in it to contact the RCMP, and make periodic calls to LSR. Chadwick said that the hiker was in a confused state on the phone, and her phone would die midway through calls.

She had walked from Rondalyn campground up to the gas plant on Timberland’s road. Employees from the gas plant confirmed that they had seen the hiker pass on Saturday, and pointed LSR members in the direction she went. It took LSR members 90 minutes to find the missing hiker.

When LSR members found her, she was laying in the snow on top of a sweater she had brought with her. She was suffering from hypothermia, and could not walk any further. Chadwick said she was not dressed appropriately for the conditions, she wore a pair of Ugg boots, and had a couple of sweaters with her.

As LSR members searched for the missing hiker, Chadwick put in a request to the Emergency Coordination Centre for helicopter extraction. Members of North Shore Search and Rescue responded to the call for mutual aid with the NSR Talon Helicopter AS 365 hoist team, an ER doctor, and cardiac anesthesiologist. A hoist tech and ER doctor were lowered to the subject and she was packaged and hoisted back up and transferred to BCEHS at the Nanaimo Airport.

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Without the helicopter, the hiker would have to be carried on a stretcher for 90 minutes by LSR members. Chadwick was concerned that the weather may have prevented NSR from crossing the Georgia Strait, so as a contingency, he contacted the Mid Island Sno Blazers snowmobile club to aid in the rescue effort. Luckily, NSR was able to fly safely to the location and extract the hiker.

“Bouncing and jarring is not good for a hypothermic patient. It could put them in a cardiac arrest,” Chadwick said. “The best way out was the helicopter — it was the fastest and the safest.”

The Mid Island Sno Blazers did transport LSR members back down, saving them another 90 minute hike.

Although the outcome was a good one, Chadwick reinforced the message that hikers should always let people know where they are going, dress appropriately for the weather, bring supplies like food and water, and make sure that cell phones are charged before heading out on the trails.