Although it’s been a quiet summer so far, Whistler Search and Rescue team answered a pair of back-to-back calls Friday, July 18.
Both calls were made by B.C. Parks rangers, patched by satellite phone through the Provincial Emergency Control Centre in Victoria.
The first call came in at 3 p.m. as a request to medi-vac a hypothermic swimmer at Garibaldi Lake. A joint team from B.C. Ambulance and Whistler Search and Rescue (SAR) flew in to find a 15 year old from Squamish already packaged by B.C. Parks rangers. The subject swam to an island on the lake, where he collapsed as a result of the cold water. B.C. Parks staff used a boat to bring him to shore and performed first aid until the helicopter could arrive.
The young man was then flown to the Whistler Health Care Centre where he was treated and later released.
While it was an unusual call to say the least, Whistler SAR manager Brad Sills said it was a reminder that summer is just arriving in the high alpine.
“It was a protracted spring, and people just aren’t used to the dangers,” he said, adding that in some areas of the alpine it’s still winter with a deep snowpack. “People think it’s August already, and that the lakes have had a chance to warm up when the ice hasn’t even been off the lake for a month yet.”
Search and Rescue received the second alert while they were putting away their equipment from the first call. At 6:10 p.m. they received a call for an urgent evacuation of an injured climber in the Wedgemont Lake area of Garibaldi Park. The Whistler SAR team attended with the aid of a helicopter and found a 66-year-old man with chest injuries already packaged by a B.C. Parks employee.
“He had gone up to scout the route up the north ridge of Wedge for a climb the next day and was just down-climbing when he slipped and fell on a rock,” said Sills.
The fact that the man was alone was a concern, because it could have made the search challenging.
“If you’re with somebody it makes it a lot easier for us if that person can climb down and tell us or phone us and tell us exactly where that person is. If we have to go out and look for you there’s less chance we’re going to have a happy ending,” Sills said.
“The interesting thing is that in both instances there were park rangers there. There has always been one at Taylor Meadows (Garibaldi Lake), but this is the first ranger I’ve heard of at Wedge in years. It’s good to hear that B.C. Parks has that kind of presence, as both cases were radioed in by satellite phone and both subjects were packaged and had received good first aid when we arrived. Hats off to Parks for re-establishing the ranger program in heavily used areas.”
While things have been quiet locally, Sills says members did assist in the search for a 48 year old Coquitlam man who went missing in the Tundra Lake area of Stein Valley at the beginning of the month. Rescue teams found the man’s body on the third day of the search, just a few kilometres from where he was flown in by helicopter.