Tough task for rescuers

Local man breaks his ankle on hike; spends night on Mount Arrowsmith near Parksville

When a hiker fell and broke his ankle on Mount Arrowsmith on the weekend, rescuers had little difficulty in finding him.

The challenge, said Arrowsmith Search and Rescue spokesman Gordon Yelland, was getting him down.

The man was hiking Saturday with his wife and two dogs when he reportedly fell, breaking his ankle.

“Alberni Search and Rescue was called out Saturday afternoon after the man took a fall and broke his ankle,” Yelland said. “They called for help and cell phones do work up there because of the towers on the mountain.”

Alberni Search and Rescue hiked to the couple — located at about 4,100 feet up the mountain — and arrived at 8 p.m.

They attempted to get the Comox 442 Squadron to hoist the man to safety, but deteriorating weather and difficult terrain made that impossible.

“Poor weather in the area frustrated several attempts by the 442 Squadron crews throughout Saturday evening, as thick clouds clung to the mountain,” said  Sergeant Guy St-Denis, Search and Rescue Technician. “After orbiting the area and making several approach attempts, crews were forced to turn back to Comox, as GSAR crews continued to carefully bring the injured middle-aged man to lower elevations.”

Yelland said Alberni Search and Rescue members hiked the woman and two dogs down the mountain to safety, while two members remained with the injured man.

“We got called at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday,” Yelland said. “We initially had six people respond. We met at the Alberni SAR hall, where the managers gave them directions and sent them off to the area.”

Two of the team were trained in rope rescue techniques, but an assessment of the situation showed that rescuers were going to need a bigger rope team.

Fortunately, a rope rescue course — led by experts from both Arrowsmith and Alberni Search and Rescue — was underway in Duncan at the time.

“We talked with the fellows and it was decided they would shut down the rest of the evaluation on Sunday and they would evaluate them on the hillside,” Yelland said. “They came off the course and assisted with the evacuation.”

It was, Yelland added, one of the most involved rescues the local SAR volunteers had experienced in quite some time.

“The trail was quite steep in places and very narrow and hard to work on,” he said. “The rope teams would set up pitches so they could lower the stretcher down the steeper areas. When they had an area where they could hike more easily, the ground team would move the stretcher down the trail and the rope team would hook up the next pitch.”

As the weather finally broke, the helicopter crew landed the large aircraft in a confined area along a road and after a short time the search and rescue members arrived by vehicle with the injured man, transferring him to the Cormorant crew.

“The first responders with the search and rescue crews had already applied first aid to the patient, so we continued to treat him on the way to hospital in Nanaimo,” St-Denis said.

Yelland said the man is expected to make a full recovery from his ordeal.

“He was up there for a long time,” he said. “It was a long time in the stretcher, too, with a painful ankle like that.”

He said while Alberni searchers had no trouble finding the man, Yelland said it was one of the more difficult evacuations they’ve done.

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