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Hiker badly injured after falling down icy cliff at Buntzen Lake viewpoint

A woman was airlifted by Coquitlam Search and Rescue off Eagle Mountain; officials warn hikers of icy, slippery conditions.

Be wary of the frost and snowy sections on local trails, even when the sun is out.

A warning to take heed by Coquitlam Search and Rescue (SAR) comes after an injured hiker was airlifted to safety by helicopter after falling off a steep cliff near Buntzen Lake on Family Day (Feb. 21).

The 24-year-old woman had hiked up Swan Falls trail to the Buntzen Lake viewpoint with her boyfriend when icier-than-normal conditions caused her to slip and fall roughly 30 feet down the embankment.

The incident took place before 3 p.m. on Monday when the sun was fully out for hikers to enjoy the outdoors, but the mercury was on the cooler side of the thermometer.

"They weren't really wearing what I would call appropriate clothes considering the temperatures were sub zero," explained search manager Alan Hurley in an interview with the Tri-City News.

Hurley is now encouraging the public to be fully prepared and to dress for the worse-case scenario.

"There was fresh snow, it's very steep. And they could not have had very good footwear. So my assumption is she slipped because it was pretty icy, and that she tumbled down [...] and banged herself up. She was in lots of pain, she was able to get a little bit of mobility, but she was quite cold when the guys got there."

SAR was notified of the incident by RCMP moments after the Buntzen Lake warden made them aware of the injured out-of-town hiker, pinging her cellphone to roughly 100 metres up the trail.

Ground and helicopter teams were deployed.

It was determined the woman was not able to walk a great distance, so using what's called the threading-the-needle technique, Hurley said a pair of rescuers were sent down from the helicopter using a 170-foot line through 100-foot trees.

They were able to reach the hiker, placed her in a heating vest for warmth and hoisted her up to be taken to Buntzen Lake where she was transported to hospital.

Hurley adds the extraction took place in the nick of time as daylight was in its final hours.

"We pulled it off with enough spare time, but that's the only complication," he said.

"Our ground team that got to her did a phenomenal job getting her ready, and all we had to do was put her in the aerial stretcher and fly her out."

Hurley is encouraging hikers thinking of venturing out in the weeks ahead to consider wearing more appropriate gear instead of jeans and running shoes.

This could include microspikes on shoes for better grip on icier trails, as well as winter coats, toques and gloves.

Coquitlam RCMP are also asking residents and visitors to local trails to be prepared for any excursion, especially with the weather beginning to warm up ever so slightly.

"Coquitlam RCMP urges everyone to partner up when hiking, or let someone know your whereabouts, and be prepared for the weather conditions," said spokesperson Const. Deanna Law. 

"SAR is a great website to visit before venturing outside, as there are numerous tips to make sure everyone is well-equipped and stays safe."

This was the seventh rescue call of 2022 for Coquitlam SAR.