A 20-year-old man had to be airlifted off Dahl Mountain on August 31 after a cliff edge he was standing on gave way.
The man, who was not a local resident, was part of a mineral exploration party doing some ground work on the mountain, located 100 kilometres south of Vanderhoof.
Nechako Valley Search and Rescue (NVSAR) received an emergency call at approximately 8 p.m. that evening saying that a man needed medical evacuation from the remote area after sustaining a leg injury.
President of NVSAR, Chris Mushumanski, who coordinated the rescue from Vanderhoof, said the man was lucky to have survived the fall.
“The young man was walking along a cliff face and the slope gave away on him … his foot slid down and got trapped in between two rocks and the weight of his body rolled over.
“From best we could gather he broke his ankle … he was very fortunate that there was a very small tree that he grabbed onto and that held his weight … it could have been a much more serious accident and could possibly have resulted in death,” said Mushumanski.
There were three other people in the man’s exploration party when the accident occurred. Two stayed with him whilst the third made the four-hour trip back to their camp to seek help via a satellite phone.
“The accident actually happened at about 4 p.m. but we didn’t get the call for another four hours,” said Mushumanski.
“It’s a very remote rugged area so getting around was a very slow process and communications were very, very, very poor,” he said.
Due to the time of night and the remoteness of the area, NVSAR requested help from Prince George, Burns Lake and Fort St. James search and rescue groups. Prince George responded with eight members.
At 11 p.m. that night a search and rescue team was sent out to establish contact with the injured man and his party. Due to the steep terrain and remote location, the team didn’t reach them until 6:30 the following morning.
“It took the team four hours just to walk from the road side to the site where he was.
“The terrain was tremendoulsy steep – there was lots of blow down and it was just a really rugged piece of country,” said Mushumanski.
Once they reached the party, the search and rescue teams made them comfortable and medically stabilized the injured man before starting the process of carrying him towards a heli-pad that other volunteers had been creating while the rescue was in progress.
The Ministry of Forests and Range had also deployed an initial attack firefighting crew to help out with the rescue by removing a number of danger trees to help create a trail for the stretcher to be carried on.
Due to the steep terrain, search and rescue crews had to use a number of rope rescue strategies to get the stretcher to the heli-pad.
“The place he was at required rope rescue,
“There was approximately 200 metres of high angle rescue – so that’s anything from vertical to near vertical terrain. Then there was another 100 metres of slope rescue – which was not as steep but still required … different kinds of rope attachments to the stretcher and people with specific training to assist with that … and then they had to go along another 500 metres of carrying the stretcher before they could get to the heli-pad,” said Mushumanski.
After being placed into the helicopter, the patient was transported to the Vanderhoof hospital, arriving there at approximately 3 p.m. on September 1.
It took a further four hours before all of the rescue crews were transported by a second helicopter to their vehicles where a number of drivers had been brought in to take them and their vehicles back to their homes.
“Most of the volunteers had been up for more than 24 hours during the rescue and so we needed to make sure that they were safe so we brought in extra drivers to bring them and their vehicles back.” said Mushumanski.
“It was a very happy ending to quite a dramatic tale,” he said.
He added that the month of August was a much busier one than normal for NVSAR with a total of three call-outs.
“That’s higher than normal but we’re happy to see the training that we are doing being put into practice,” he said.