Copter plucks hiker from Mount Frosty

The night winch-rescue - performed in inclement weather - saved local GSAR from spending hours cutting through debris on Windy Joe Trail

A Cormormant helicopter team from RCAF 442 Squadron in Comox was called to Manning Park to rescue a hiker in distress.

A local crew led a dramatic mountain rescue in the early hours of Sunday morning at Manning Park.

Princeton Ground Search and Rescue was called at 9:30 pm Saturday night, after a young hiker fell into medical distress on Frosty Mountain approximately 7 km along Windy Joe Trail.

The Royal Canadian Armed Forces 422 squadron – the only team in Canada qualified to perform nighttime helicopter winch rescue – was dispatched from Comox, BC and despite darkness and poor weather conditions lifted the woman to safety.

“We were really lucky they were able to pull it off in the weather,” GSAR manager Randy Rorvik told the Spotlight.  “If they had been unable to do it we would have had to walk in, snow shoe in.”

Before being able to stage a rescue Rorvik followed the protocol of consulting an Avalanche 2 Technique. “If it’s a winter rescue nowadays that’s what’s at the back of my mind when I get a call, avalanche risk.”

Rorvik said a ground rescue would have taken at least six hours “in and out” and been difficult because of the “horrible” conditions of the trails that were snow covered and rendered nearly impassable in places because of downed trees and branches.

The woman, who was hiking with two companions, was reported to be having medical difficulties due to diabetes.

With no cellular phone service available in Manning Park, one of the hikers walked approximately two hours to make the call for help.

“I think they took on a little more than they were expecting,” said Rorvik. “They were prepared for a day trip they were not prepared for an overnight.”

When the diabetic patient was unloaded from the helicopter early Sunday morning she had significantly recovered and declined to be transported to hospital. By that time the weather had deteriorated to the point that the armed forces helicopter could not return to its base.

Seven members of Princeton GSAR were on the scene over night, assisted by more than 20 additional rescue personnel from Oliver-Osoyoos, Penticton, Hope and Manning Park.

Rorvik said they were prepared to reach the hiker using snowmobiles and chainsaws to clear the trail.

The Princeton GSAR responds to approximately eight calls a year and has 22 volunteer members.