British Columbia

Cave-rescue specialists flown in from across B.C. to save injured climber near Penticton

More than two dozen rescuers were involved in saving a climber who fell almost eight metres inside a cave in the Okanagan on Monday.

Rescue of woman who fell almost 8 metres took more than 7 hours

Cave-rescue specialists were called in from across the province to help retrieve the 50-year-old climber. (Skylar Noe-Vack)

More than two dozen rescuers were involved in saving a climber who fell almost eight metres inside a cave in the Okanagan on Monday.

The 50-year-old woman's head and upper body were injured in the fall north of Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park, and she was taken to hospital in stable condition after a rescue that took more than seven hours, Randy Brown of Penticton Search and Rescue said"Cav

The woman and two friends, all from the Lower Mainland, were already about 10 metres down into the cave when she fell, rescuers said. She was discovered about 18 metres below the entrance.

Brown said his team was called to the climbing area at 11:36 a.m., and when they arrived on scene it was clear they'd need help from cave-rescue specialists.

Nine volunteers from Alberta/B.C. Cave Rescue Service were flown in from across the province to help with the rescue, joining a team of about 20 rescuers already on site.

The climber's head and upper body were injured in the fall. (Skylar Noe-Vack)

It took until 7 p.m. to retrieve the woman and airlift her to a waiting ambulance.

"This was an interesting challenging for us," cave rescuer Doug Munroe said. "There's a lot of loose rock in this cave, so a very significant hazard to everybody moving through."

The caves in the area have become more popular in recent years as adventurers share their exploits online, Munroe said.

He said the rescued climber and her friends should have been better prepared, and he urges anyone interested in caving to do their homework.

"If you want to go caving, join a caving club," Munroe said.

'We had done our homework'

Wayne Pattern was one of the spelunkers exploring the cave system when the fall happened and he was grateful for the response team's efforts.

"What an incredible job the fire department, S.A.R, cave rescuers and volunteers did. It was pretty amazing how they mobilized that," said Pattern.

But he's quick to add that, contrary to Burton's statement, they were prepared.

"We had done our homework before we went in," said Pattern.

The female spelunker who fell has recorded more than 100 trips with the B.C. Mountaineering Club.

The woman who was rescued is pictured climbing at Skaha Bluffs. Her family has asked that she be kept anonymous. (Momo Xiang)

Pattern says they had extra clothes, water and food, extensive wilderness first aid training, and had studied the route before they went in.

They followed a description of the route from a guide book for the entire trip and made it to the cave's exit, which is on the wall of a cliff.

After noticing the rock near the exit was loose, the explorers decided the safer option was to return the way they came. While traversing the "sloping slab," his friend lost her footing.

 "It was just a misplaced step and that's when she slid off."

Still, Pattern said Munroe's advice is sound.

"People should be prepared when they do go into these situations," said Pattern.

With files from Ethan Sawyer