British Columbia

Missing hiker found after cold night alone in wilderness near Vancouver

Dozens of search-and-rescue personnel from Lions Bay and North Vancouver have managed to rescue a hiker who failed to return from the icy Howe Sound Crest Trail on Wednesday.

Zheng-Hui Tang was reported missing since Wednesday

A Talon helicopter with North Shore Rescue is assisting with the search for a missing hiker, last seen on the Howe Sound Crest Trail on Wednesday. (North Shore Rescue/Facebook)

Search crews have located a man in his mid-20s who spent a cold night alone in the North Shore mountains, after going off trail late Wednesday.

Zheng-Hui Tang was reported missing after he failed to meet his companion, who had turned back earlier in the day, as Tang attempted to hike up one of the Lions alone, according to Don Jardine, a North Shore Rescue (NSR) search manager involved in the effort.

Jardine said Lions Bay Search and Rescue led the search, but two helicopters, Squamish SAR, NSR, as well as B.C. Parks and Metro Vancouver staff and RCMP took part. 

Tang was found by a contractor driving on a gravel road in the watershed below the West Lion at about 2 p.m., Thursday.

According to Jardine, searchers with a dog had located the spot where they believe Tang spent the night at an elevation of about 1,000 metres. They found receipts and ear buds at the spot.

"[The spot was] not good. It's a steep drainage with heavy old growth forest all around him and it's quite a ways down, and all the precipitation — the moisture in there is turning to ice," said Jardine, adding that the man was wearing light runners, shorts and leggings.

"So he wasn't really dressed for this weather," he said, adding he didn't appear to have a flashlight or any way to start a fire.

Search manager Martin Colwell shows the ground his rescuers have covered overnight. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

"Hypothermia is a big concern. He could have had a fall. Obviously, we'd like to find him today," Lions Bay search manager Martin Colwell said before Tang was located.

"We're trying to use all the ground and air assets we can in the daylight to see if we can find him ... he is in serious danger."

Colwell said Tang, a moderately experienced local hiker, decided to split off and tackle the West Lion on his own Wednesday after reaching Unnecessary Mountain with his partner.

The pair made a plan to meet later at the Cypress Bowl parking lot, which is about half an hour's drive from Vancouver, but Tang never showed up.

Rescuers spent the night searching the majority of the trail he had planned to take, but didn't find him. They then turned to the drainage in the watershed, where he was eventually found.

The hike from West Lion to the Cypress Bowl parking lot takes around four hours one way. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Colwell said Tang did not have the right equipment to spend a night in the frozen backcountry.

"It's very cold, it's been around zero at night," said Colwell.

"He doesn't appear to have a pack or any extra clothing, a small amount of water, maybe a small amount of food, but basically no shelter, no light."

Tang was carrying a cellphone, but Jardine said there was no service in the watershed, because it's off-limits to the public.

The Howe Sound Crest Trail is a 29-kilometre route linking Cypress Bowl to Porteau Cove, according to Outdoor Vancouver. Hikers say the route, rated very difficult, is typically done as an overnight trip, though experienced healthy hikers can push to finish the trail in one day.

Jardine said Tang's case turned out better than it could have, given the quickly changing season and the hiker's lack of preparation. He said people heading into the backcountry should pack for earlier sunsets and icy conditions at higher elevations.

With files from Rhianna Schmunk and Rafferty Baker

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