Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Five Hikers Rescued from West Coast Trail

An article today in my local rag, The Times Colonist, describes a narrowly averted disaster on the West Coast Trail yesterday. It seems that this group was attempting to cross one of the surge channels near Owen Point and were struck by a rogue wave and swept into the channel.

After reading the article, there are several quotes that I think are worthy of mention:
The rogue wave hit the hikers about 9 a.m. A park ranger spotted the hikers and called for help about 6 p.m.
That's 9 hours before the call for help even gets placed. Owen Point is a (fairly difficult) half-day hike from the Port Renfrew trailhead, so this should be a warning of how prepared you need to be when on a remote trail. If they were further along the trail, it could have been much longer, perhaps the next day. When I spent 5 days on the trail, I only saw a ranger once.

Joe Ellis, 24, a theology student from Anchorage, Alaska, and a friend of the Petersons, jumped the wide crevice.

Don't do this! Everyone hiking the West Coast Trail gets a mandatory lecture about the dangers of surge channels and other trail dangers. None of them need to be jumped, there are trails around all of them. At least these hikers had their packs off, otherwise the outcome wouldn't have been so happy.

Peterson, who initially had reservations about hiking the trail, but decided to go along to be with her brother and father.

If you aren't 100% sure you are up for hiking a difficult trail, don't do it. You endanger yourself, other hikers, and rescue workers. For the West Coast Trail in particular, going with an experienced guide isn't enough, you need to be experienced yourself. This group had exceptional luck, combined with keeping their heads and making some good decisions, the only reason nobody was seriously hurt or killed. This is also stresses the policy of keeping your group together, and, if you are a solo hiker, wait for another hiker or group before you attempt any dangerous sections.

I'm happy that this story ended happily, and admire the courage of this group. Hopefully we can all learn something from it, and try to lower the current statistics of 50-80 rescues on the West Coast Trail annually.

No comments: