British Columbia

Climber who fell 20 metres while climbing Chilliwack mountain rescued overnight

Chilliwack Search and Rescue says a climber in his late 40s, “fell backwards, cartwheeled a couple of times and fell about 60 or 70 feet onto a ledge that was approximately two-and-a-half or three-feet wide."

'If he had fallen off that ledge ... he was looking at about 1500 feet of a fall,' says rescuer

A still from a video shot by Chilliwack SAR shows the section of Mount Rexford that the hikers were on. The uninjured climber's flashing light can be seen on the left side about halfway up the section. (Chilliwack SAR)

Chilliwack Search and Rescue say "several very fortunately timed events" resulted in the successful nine-hour rescue early Sunday morning of an injured climber who fell about 20 metres onto a ledge while descending the summit of Mount Rexford.

The injured climber, a man in his late 40s, and his teenaged nephew had completed the most technical portion of the descent when the accident occurred, said Doug Fraser, search manager for Chilliwack Search and Rescue.

"The older climber had both his hands on a rock that gave way, and he fell backwards, cartwheeled a couple of times and fell about 60 or 70 feet onto a ledge that was approximately two-and-a-half or three-feet-wide," Fraser told CBC News.

"[It's] incredibly fortunate that's where he stayed, he didn't bounce off. If he had fallen off that ledge or missed that ledge, he was looking at about 1500 feet of a fall down to the valley bottom and there is no way he would have survived that kind of fall."

Group hiked for hours to call 911

A group of hikers on a mountain directly across from Mount Rexford saw the fall, managed to speak with the uninjured climber, and then hiked three to four hours to get into cell range and call 911, Fraser said.

He said Chilliwack SAR were contacted around 7:40 p.m. PT, and before dark used a helicopter to find the climbers and set down four crew members on the side of the 2320-metre tall mountain.

Fraser said the original plan was to use a helicopter and do a long-line rescue, but because of the risk of lightning they called Comox RCAF transport and rescue squadron, which did the rescue with a Cormorant helicopter.

He said they reached Chilliwack airport at around 4 a.m. PT. Sunday.

Climbers were 'very skilled'

"After the accident occurred there were several very fortunately timed events that facilitated the rescue," Fraser said, adding that had they still been on the mountain today cloudy weather would have prevented a helicopter from flying to the location.

Fraser said the injured climber has "several deep lacerations" on his arms and legs, and suspects that he has an ankle fracture.

He said the two climbers are "very skilled" and accidents do happen, but said the two could have been more prepared for the possibility of being delayed and spending longer on the mountain.

"These two were just in shorts and t-shirts, and they weren't prepared for the cold temperatures that came with nightfall, so we clothed them and were able to keep them warm until we were able to be extracted."