Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay firefighters 14-hour rescue saves 4 hikers on Mt.McKay

It took Thunder Bay fire fighters 14 hours, but in they end they were able to successfully rescue four hikers trapped on Mount McKay, just outside the northwestern Ontario city.

Technical rope rescue required to save hikers who ended up trapped on the mountain

Mount McKay, which is in Fort William First Nation territory, was the scene of a 14-hour technical rope rescue by Thunder Bay fire fighters this weekend. (Adam Burns/CBC)

It took Thunder Bay firefighters 14 hours, but in they end they were able to successfully rescue four hikers trapped on Mount McKay, just outside the northwestern Ontario city.

A call came in to Thunder Bay Fire Rescue at about 9 p.m. on Saturday that a group of young people, between the ages of 15 and 21, were lost on the mountain, said on-duty Platoon Chief Dan Hyvarinen.

The hikers had started their walk at about 3:00 p.m., but were not prepared to spend the night outdoors.

'Couldn't go up or down'

"They'd gotten themselves to a spot where they couldn't go up or down, and were in some distress there," said Hyvarinen.

Once the crews located the hikers, firefighters realized the only way to save them was from above, and that meant a high angle rescue. 
Thunder Bay fire fighters conducted a 14-hour high angle rescue to help four hikers find their way off Mount McKay. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

"They were unable to facilitate a rescue coming up from the bottom, so we had to bring all our gear to the top of the mountain and set up a technical rope rescue," said Hyvarinen.

The first step of the rescue involved lowering a fire fighter 120 metres, to the waiting hikers.

"He got to the patient, and they were then secured with a harness onto a second rope and then the firefighter and the patient were lowered down another 60 metres.

"He unattached the patient and then the firefighter was brought back up, attached the next person and then back down," said Hyvarinen.

Each individual rescue took about an hour, he said.

'Not an easy feeling' going over cliff

The rescue wrapped up at about 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, although much of the rope work was done in the dark.

"At the best of times, going over the edge of the cliff, when it's dark, it's not an easy feeling for the guys, but we're trained and we know how to do it safely," said Hyvarinen.

After a 20-minute walk along a trail to a waiting ambulance, the hikers were examined by paramedics.

There were no injuries, and none of the four wanted to go to the hospital, he said.

Three pumper crews and the technical rescue trailer were all at the scene.