Worst hiking buddies ever? Rescued woman was left behind by companions

VANCOUVER – North Shore Rescue is strongly criticizing a group of hikers who abandoned an exhausted woman who injured her ankle on a challenging trail Sunday afternoon with no intention of calling for help.

Search manager Allan McMordie, who’s been part of the all-volunteer team for four decades, told CTV News Vancouver that while it’s common for groups to separate, he’s never seen a case where fellow hikers left someone behind and didn’t go for help.

“The worst kind of behaviour is leaving somebody out in the woods, all by themselves in the dark,” McMordie said. “Take a look at yourselves, and decide…what kind of person would do that,” he said.

According to North Shore Rescue, the group of five had met on a WeChat group, and set out Sunday morning to hike the Coliseum Mountain Trail from Lynn Headwaters.

It’s a trail McMordie called a “rigorous, all-day hike” with more than 1,200 metres of elevation gain. The hike takes about 10 hours round trip.

On the way down from the summit, McMordie said, the woman began to grow tired, and at some point rolled her ankle.

“She had very poor shoes. She had these sparkling running shoes on,” he said.

The group split, with the three faster hikers going ahead, while the “leader” McMordie said, stayed with the 27-year-old woman.

But near Norvan Falls, still some 6 kilometers from the trailhead, her companion abandoned her and headed solo for the parking lot.

“Did it sink in that she could have died up there? Did they realize that?” CTV News asked.

“I don’t think they did, no,” McMordie said.

Three hours later, as it was growing dark, a hiker named Alex encountered the woman on his descent. He helped her down the trail until the pair were in cell phone range, and called 911.

“This is a guy who didn’t just walk past somebody in trouble. He’s a great guy,” McMordie said.

NSR responded to the call, put the woman’s injured foot in a boot to help stabilize it and helped her the rest of the way down the trail.

While a language barrier made communication challenging, rescuers say her injuries didn’t appear very serious and understood she would be going to get her ankle checked out the next day.

McMordie said when he ran into some of the members from the original group at the bottom, he gave them a “little bit of a lecture” adding that they didn’t seem to realize the gravity of the situation or want to take any responsibility.

“You don’t abandon somebody out there and leave them alone,” McMordie said. “That’s terrible.”

He recommends that all hikers know their abilities, know who they are hiking with and, most of all, know that there is no excuse not to call for help.

For more about what to bring on a hike, including the 10 essentials, click here.