A Coquitlam man died in the Pemberton backcountry last week while hiking solo through Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park.
Riun McFarlen’s body was found on a frozen lake on Thursday afternoon, July 3, 10 days after Pemberton Helicopters dropped him off in the area.
According to Sergeant Blake MacLeod of the Pemberton RCMP, McFarlen had chartered the helicopter on Tuesday, June 24, to fly him to the provincial park. The Coquitlam man planned to hike out of the valley and return to his parked truck at the Pemberton Helicopters parking lot within four or five days. He was believed to be properly equipped for the trek, including provisions.
On Tuesday July 1, when McFarlen did not return to his parked car, the RCMP launched a search throughout the 70 square kilometre area. Resources were gathered from Pemberton, Whistler, and Squamish. By the third day of the search, resources from Logan Lake, Coquitlam, Kent-Harrison, Kamloops, Comox, Campbell River, Lions Bay, Chilliwack, RCMP Air Services and RCMP Dog Service were also enlisted.
According to Brad Sills from Whistler Search and Rescue, when the aerial search was “exhausted”, the search party decided to assign ground teams to areas were the man had most likely traveled.
“The Coquitlam team was able to find the area that he had most likely succumbed to, and there was some evidence in the area of somebody being there,” said Sills.
“They looked around and found him on the surface of a frozen lake.”
Sills suspects the man most likely tumbled down from the steep slope adjacent to the lake, although given the melting snow conditions, exact details are hard to determine.
“We can’t figure out why,” said Sills.
The B.C. Coroner’s Service is still investigating the death, and McFarlen’s next of kin have been notified.
The man had some experience hiking – including the West Coast Trail and other backcountry excursions – but did had not spent a lot of time trekking through high alpine terrain like Stein Valley.
“For anyone to be hiking in that area by themselves indicates a level of experience that is low. There are just so many hazards,” explained Sills.
“He succumbed to the trauma by himself. Had he been with someone else, the outcome might have been different,” he added.
Spring has been persistent in the Stein Valley this year, with terrain conditions resembling patterns typically seen in March or April. Most of the area is still covered by snow that has begun to melt with the warmer temperatures.
Sills said this melting snow poses hazards to hikers and hiking through vast wilderness areas is ill advised, especially alone.
The helicopter pilot who flew McFarlen to the area was unavailable for comment at press time.