Calgary

'She was pretty lucky': Rescuer spent snowy night on Mount Haig with injured hiker

When bad weather stalled the helicopter rescue of an injured hiker off a mountain in southern Alberta, Jonas Hoke volunteered to spend the night outside with the hiker.

Slippery conditions led to fall on Mount Haig near Castle Mountain Ski Resort

Members with Parks Canada's visitor safety team are pictured on the east ridge of Mount Haig during the rescue of a woman who fell about 45 metres. (Parks Mountain Safety/Facebook)

When the helicopter rescue of an injured hiker off a mountain in southern Alberta was stalled by bad weather, Jonas Hoke volunteered to spend the night outside with the hiker.

On Sunday afternoon, a hiking trip turned disastrous for a group of six people scrambling on Mount Haig, near Castle Mountain Ski Resort. A 35-year-old woman fell about 45 metres, triggering a massive rescue effort involving Pincher Creek RCMP and public safety officers from Banff National Park, Kananaskis Park and Waterton Parks.

Hoke, a visitor safety technician with Waterton Lakes National Park, spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener about the rescue.

"We were hopeful that if we stayed with her through the night and kept her warm then we would be able to transport her more effectively under daylight," he said.

Slippery conditions led to misstep and tumble 

Hoke said the group was scrambling on technical terrain that had leftover snow from earlier in the season. The snow had a layer of rime on it, making the surface quite slippery. One hiker made a misstep and lost her footing.

"When she fell she picked up speed fairly quickly and tumbled a ways down the hill before coming to rest just on a small ledge, where her friends were able to get to her and help her out as best they could and call for help as well," Hoke said.  

Hoke could not comment on the woman's injuries, but said she needed to be put on a spine board and kept immobilized to be transported off the mountain.

Five other hikers able to walk out

The other hikers were uninjured but cold, as they had given the woman their extra layers of clothes to keep her warm.

"They were able to walk out on their own accord that night with some other members of our rescue party leading them out," Hoke said.

Meanwhile, Hoke brought overnight camping gear and warm sleeping bags to spend the night on the mountain with the injured hiker.

The temperatures hovered around the freezing mark and sleet and snow fell. Hoke said it was very windy, with gusts around 80 to 90 km/h.  

"It's always a powerful experience spending that much time with someone who is injured and potentially in jeopardy like that, and it's also always a powerful experience spending the night out on a mountain," Hoke said.

"But I definitely had all the equipment I needed to stay out there comfortably, or fairly comfortably I guess."

Rescue called 'extremely complex mission'

Hoke said he shared small talk with the injured hiker, about what each did for work.

"I'd say she was pretty lucky in that she was in fairly stable condition and she was conscious and alert," he said.

A helicopter was able to reach the woman the next day. RCMP said the woman was extracted early Monday afternoon and eventually flown to a Calgary hospital in serious condition.

"Saving this woman's life can be credited to the superior technical ability of all those who participated in this extremely complex mission," said Pincher Creek RCMP Cpl. Jeff Feist in a news release.

For his part, Hoke said he felt proud of the organization he works for and happy he was able to help someone out.

"With all the training and support that we receive, I think it was a situation that I felt prepared to deal with and I'm glad that I was able to help someone out as a result."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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