Coquitlam Search and Rescue uses new app to find hikers

Need to be rescued from a mountaintop?

Three young hikers found out over the weekend that there's an app for that.

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Coquitlam Search and Rescue volunteers were called at 7 p.m. Sunday to rescue three 23-year-old hikers who got lost on the Dilly Dally Trail out of Buntzen Lake. The three men had all done the hike before but snow at the top of Eagle Ridge had obscured the trail and they were unable to find their way down.

They did not have a GPS unit and carried only minimal equipment with them.

A prototype software "app" developed by a Coquitlam SAR volunteer was sent to the hikers via text message.

The YourLo.ca/tion app was developed after SAR volunteers found lost hikers often didn't know how to use the GPS function on their phones to display their location. It's based on a similar application being used in the U.K. that determines a subject's location, along with an estimate of the error (Google Maps and other smart phone map applications can include a degree of error that might be off by thousands of meters).

When the stranded hikers on Eagle Ridge downloaded it, the app sent their position back to SAR managers and let the hikers know rescuers were on their way and to expect a helicopter.

The hikers were spotted from the air in a steep area a long way from trails on Eagle Ridge, about a third of the way down from the top. The chopper was unable to land but searchers dropped the stranded men clothing, food, water and a radio.

Seven SAR members were then dropped at a landing area on top of the ridge and, equipped with ice axes, crampons and ropes, they were able to reach the hikers after about five hours.

The crew decided to wait until daylight, when North Shore Rescue would be able to perform a long-line extraction (HETS) of all 10 people, and were back at the command post by 8 a.m. Monday. (Coquitlam SAR is still waiting for its own HETS harness kit to be delivered, after which members will need to be trained to use it.)

Coquitlam SAR said the hikers called for help early in the process, which made locating them easier than if they had waited until dark.

They're reminding hikers that although recent warm weather has melted much of the snowpack, there will still be snow on Eagle Ridge well into June. The snow obscures trails and trail markers, makes hiking slower and increases the risk of slip-and-fall injuries.

Hikers are also reminded to carry a wilderness GPS, a map and compass - and to know how to use them - and to always bring enough clothing and food to handle an emergency.

spayne@tricitynews.com

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