UPDATE: Lost Buntzen Lake hikers found by Coquitlam Search and Rescue
Two hikers unexpectedly spent the night on the Swan Falls trail at Buntzen Lake after heavy snow covered their path and caused them to lose their way.
Coquitlam Search and Rescue personnel found the pair cold, but uninjured late Tuesday evening and were able to walk the two women out of the park the next morning.
Michael Coyle, a search manager with SAR, told The Tri-City News on Wednesday that winter conditions are still prevalent in the upper elevations.
"They just lost the trail high up in the alpine, which is quite easy to do," Coyle said. "The trail markers are either buried under the snow or they are just covered by branches. Even if you are very familiar with the area you can easily be confused."
On Tuesday, the two cousins set out for what was supposed to be a quick hike up the mountain, but lost their way when snow covered the path. They realized they were in trouble once it got dark and used cellphone to call for help at around 6:20 p.m.
"They did a really good job of describing where they thought they were," Coyle said. "That gave us a good place to start."
It took search crews about five hours of following the lost hiker's tracks in the snow. When they caught up to the 22 and 24 year old, they were shivering from the -5 temperatures.
Coyle said that searchers carry a new type of warming vest that was put on the lost hikers. Once they warmed up and the sun came back up, searchers were able to walk the two women out of the woods. By 10:30 a.m. they were safely back at the trailhead.
The two were intermediate-level hikers, Coyle said, but were not prepared for a night out in the woods. Both knew the area fairly well and one even walked to the path from her home on Sunnyside Road.
The incident is an important reminder to those who are eager to get out hiking before the snow completely recedes, Coyle said.
"Most definitely, it is still winter in the mountains," he said. "The snow can really change things."
About 30 members of Coquitlam SAR participated in the rescue.