Searchers follow beacon to rescue missing hikers
Several Coquitlam Search and Rescue teams were busy Tuesday locating three hikers believed to be from the Tri-Cities who activated an emergency beacon one day earlier in the wilds north of Pitt Lake.
The three men in their 20s were found unharmed and were rescued just after 1 p.m. by Coquitlam SAR personnel descending from a helicopter to the area north of Pitt Lake.
“The weather finally broke for us and we could long-line our rescuers in,” Coquitlam SAR spokesperson Dwight Yochim told The Tri-City News minutes after the rescue. “It looks like as soon as they heard our helicopter coming, they set off smoke and stayed where the beacon alert was.”
Yochim said the men’s distress signal was detected Monday morning but low cloud cover kept the rescue helicopter grounded until Tuesday afternoon, leaving rescuers in the dark about whether the men were injured, stuck or simply lost and waiting for help.
“It’s almost impossible to set off one of these beacons accidentally,” Yochim told The News before the hikers had been located. “There’s a whole sequence you have to go through to trigger it, so the fact that they have triggered it brings us some concern and that’s why we’re trying so hard to get in there.”
The young men had set off hiking from Squamish to Coquitlam along the Fools Gold Trail several days ago and, despite being physically fit and experienced hikers, they did not bring a tent with them, Yochim said.
Two teams of five rescuers in all set out on foot Tuesday morning to try to reach the men, whose beacon was signalling from an area northwest of DeBeck Creek on the north side of Pitt Lake, leading rescuers to believe the hikers were stuck on some cliffs about 400 m above an old logging road that serves as the trail.
“When you come into that area, the natural tendency is to stay to the north because it’s easier walking but you quickly get rocked out without knowing it, and I believe that may have happened to these guys,” Yochim said, adding that rescuers would later bring the hikers to their command post for a full interview to determine what went wrong.
On Monday, a rescue helicopter took off for the area of the beacon’s signal but low cloud cover grounded it before it could enter the area. By early Tuesday afternoon, the helicopter was still awaiting clearance above Pitt Lake as clouds continued to roll in and stack up against the mountains.
Coquitlam SAR operates a command centre at Grant Narrows on the south end of Pitt Lake, equipped with a rescue boat and helicopter. Crews from Ridge Meadows and North Shore Rescue were also standing by Tuesday to assist in the rescue.