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Mountain climber survives 40-metre Vancouver Island tumble

Campbell River, North Shore SAR teams rescue man who injured his face in Stratchcona Park fall
Two climbers had to be rescued from the east face of Mount Colonel Foster on Sept. 2 (North Shore Search and Rescue photo/ Facebook)

A pair of mountaineers were saved from the side of a precarious peak thanks to a joint effort by Campbell River Search and Rescue and their North Shore counterparts.

The climbers were attempting to summit Mount Colonel Foster in Strathcona Provincial Park on Wednesday, Sept. 1, when the lead climber took a 40 metre tumble while the pair were 400 metres up the east side of the mountain.

He suffered some pretty severe injuries to his face, and his partner suffered some significant rope burn to his hands while attempting to belay him.

Due to some problems with their satellite device, they were unable to alert search and rescue right away, and had to camp up high overnight.

Thankfully, they were able to signal to some hikers below the next day, and the rescue got underway.

CRSAR President Tim Fairbank said there were only two mountain rescue team members on hand, so they called in the services of Island Alpine Guides’ Jan Neuspiel, as well as those of the North Shore Search and Rescue.

“We actually have our own helicopter hoisting program on Vancouver island, but unfortunately we’ve been limited with available aircraft, because so many helicopters have been in the interior fighting fires,” Fairbank said. “Including the few aircraft that are required for our own helicopter long line program – or hoist program – so most of this summer we’ve been calling in back-up from the Lower Mainland.”

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Finding the exact location of the two climbers was the first hurdle, Fairbank said.

“It looked like they were just two dots of a slightly different colour on a huge side of rock,” he explained.

Once located, they lowered a handheld radio to the pair, and were able to confirm their injury status, and what their needs were.

The North Shore team showed up shortly after, and were able to extricate the climbers from the mountain and make it back to Campbell River before their mandated “shut-down” time.

Jan Neuspiel posted about the experience on a Vancouver Island mountaineering Facebook group a few days after, and commended the climbers.

“They showed incredible insight, humility and a genuine desire to learn from their experiences,” he wrote.

“They did a whole lot of things very well and were on point and brave in their response to their situation.”

Neuspiel noted “in many ways the mishap really resulted from bad luck when a hold which had been checked twice broke off.”

The experienced mountain guide wrote the decision to call for help was the right choice.

“It takes a lot of courage to make yourself as vulnerable as these people are, and as a community we want to support and encourage that as it benefits us all to share our learning,” he explained.

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