British Columbia

North Shore Rescue seeing spike in calls during long weekend

Volunteers with North Shore Rescue have been kept busy this weekend, with seven rescues since the Labour Day weekend got underway.

Search and rescue volunteers were called out several times Friday, and again on Saturday

NSR volunteers take part in a helicopter rescue, after a woman in her mid-twenties injured her ankle near The Lions, north of Vancouver. (North Shore Rescue)

Seven volunteers with North Shore Rescue (NSR) were out late Saturday night and well into Sunday morning, helping a 68-year-old German tourist off Grouse Mountain, in North Vancouver.

This was the seventh call requiring assistance from NSR in just two days, in what Search Manager Peter Haigh described as a Labour Day long weekend surge. 

According to Haigh, the hiker, Fred Hermkes, got lost in an extremely steep area near the top of the Grouse Grind, and required a technical rope rescue.  

Haigh said NSR was contacted about the lost tourist a little before 8 p.m., just as crews were wrapping up another rescue nearby. It wasn't until 4:30 a.m. on Sunday that NSR volunteers emerged from the trail with Hermkes tethered to a short rope.

German tourist Fred Hermkes (in blue shirt) emerges from the base of the Grouse Grind trail surrounded by North Shore Rescue volunteers. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A helicopter was used to locate Hermkes, but due to darkness, it was grounded before the hiker could be plucked from the mountain, according to Haigh.

Volunteers had to head into the forest on foot to reach the man in treacherous terrain.

"What's very confusing, is how he got in that location in the first place," Haigh said.

"We haven't figured that out, and with the language difficulty, we probably won't." 

Haigh added that the rescue took several hours longer than expected, and the tourist was not prepared for a hike in the backcountry.

Hermkes had a flashlight, which helped, but he was wearing street shoes and failed to pack extra clothing. 

NSR Search Manager Peter Haigh describes a rescue effort at Grouse Mountain, Saturday night in North Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC )

Busy start to the long weekend

The Saturday night rescue came on the tail of six other calls for NSR in just two days:

  • A woman found herself in distress on a cliff band in the Whyte Lake area and called 911. She was hiking with two dogs, one of which was injured and had to be carried out by NSR volunteer Scott Merriman.
  • NSR was called to assist Lions Bay Search and Rescue, when a woman in her mid-twenties injured her ankle and had to be airlifted off The Lions.
    NSR volunteer Scott Merriman packs an injured dog out of the woods, Saturday. (North Shore Rescue)
  • There were two separate calls to assist the B.C. Ambulance Service, with rescues on Mount Seymour.
  • Metro Vancouver staff called NSR after finding outdoor equipment strewn about on the Howe Sound Crest trail. It was later determined that a hiker had stashed the gear about a year ago, and wind likely blew it out of a tree during last week's storm.
  • An 80-year-old man walked away from a care facility in West Vancouver, but later turned up at another facility where he had previously lived.

"As you know, we are all volunteers, and we do have other lives, if you can believe it," said Haigh. "It's been crazy more recently and I really do not understand why."

Haigh said August was an exceptionally busy month with a total of 29 calls.

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