The Whistler Search and Rescue scrambled on Tuesday afternoon to rescue a snowmobiler in the Brandywine Falls area who had tumbled into a 90-foot deep crevasse.
According to Whistler SAR manager Brad Sills, they got the call at 1:30 p.m. after the man's partner called for paramedics. They attended the site, and one experienced member of the team, Wayne Flann, lowered himself into the crevasse to stabilize the man and get him into a position where he could be rescued by a helicopter long line.
Whistler Search and Rescue called Whistler Blackcomb and local heliski operators to provide assistance, and in the end they had a crew of 16 and three helicopters on the scene.
"He was actually heading straight down the fall line in the middle of the glacier, which most mountaineers understand is not the best place to be," said Sills. "He would not have been able to see the actual hole he drove into because it was on the backside of a 90-degree rollover."
The rescue was complicated by the fact that it wasn't a straight line from the bottom of the crevasse. Flann put the man in a harness, and managed to move him to a place where they could see daylight.
The entire time the team realized they were racing the clock so Search and Rescue had called the Canadian Armed Forces base in Comox to request a helicopter if it turned into a night rescue situation.
However, in the end it was not necessary as the man was successfully lifted from the site and transported to Whistler, with the rescue concluding just after 5:20 p.m.
"Even at 1:30 p.m. we knew that daylight was going to go very quickly," said Sills.
They wanted to take the man directly to the Whistler Health Care Centre, but because of restrictions regarding the helipad they were forced to land elsewhere and transport the man by ambulance.
"That impeded our rescue effort," said Sills, pointing out that single engine helicopters are not cleared to land at the centre. "We were graced with three helicopters to perform this rescue, but none of them fit the profile for landing at the clinic, and this is a big concern for us in a community where there is so much trauma. Despite huge efforts on the part of a lot of people, it could all be for not if the link continues to be absent."
The man was suffering hypothermia when he was rescued, and had injuries to his head, back and legs. He also had a history of heart issues, had heart surgery recently and was on blood thinners.
The man was last reported on Tuesday in serious but stable conditions.
He was not prepared for a trip into the backcountry, according to Search and Rescue, and didn't have a daypack with food, water or other safety items.