Oct 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm #1281020
for those that dont know grouse mountain is actually part of metro vancouver … there are quite a few day hikes around there … every yuppie here runs up that mountain … not to say the victim was such … but it is not considered "serious" in general
VANCOUVER — When Michael St. Laurent was found by a hiker on Saturday afternoon — after nine days in the remote wilderness of the North Shore mountains — he had already been preparing to die.
The 45-year-old had inked his name, date of birth and next-of-kin in red felt pen on his forearm.
Delusional, suffering from hypothermia, dehydrated, long out of food and suffering from severe “immersion foot,” a condition akin to frost bite, he knew he wouldn’t last another day, said North Shore Rescue team leader Tim Jones.
“He knew if he wasn’t rescued [Saturday] that was it — it was game over for him. He told us that,” said Jones.
“He’s very lucky he didn’t become bear [food] meat,” added Jones.
By the time a team of rescuers reached St. Laurent Saturday night in the Hanes Valley, a remote backcountry wilderness on the backside of Grouse Mountain, it was too late in the day to airlift him to safety.
Instead, they made camp and he was moved out by helicopter early Sunday morning.
St. Laurent was in stable condition in Lions Gate Hospital, said Vancouver Coast Health officials Sunday.
Early Sunday morning, after being airlifted to safety, St. Laurent told reporters he had been planning a one-day trip, but that he got stuck in the bush.
He said he saw rescuers looking for him and could hear them, but that they couldn’t hear him.
St. Laurent said he started hallucinating on the third day. “And from there, it’s been a wait-and-see game to see who else was going to come out, and it’s been a very tough slog,” he told Global TV.
North Vancouver RCMP Cpl. Richard De Jong said St. Laurent was hampered from getting out of the remote area because he had hurt his hip and knee, possibly by falling down an embankment. “The first day in, he injured himself,” said De Jong.
St. Laurent’s planned 15-kilometre trip would have taken him around the backside of Grouse Mountain to the entrance to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park at Lynn Valley Road.
The route, which is recommended for experienced hikers only, has steep unmarked scree slopes and creek crossings.
Jones credited St. Laurent for not panicking, but said he had made some critical mistakes in preparing for the lengthy hike into the rugged backcountry.
St. Laurent had not told anyone where he was going, created no trip plan and did not bring his cellphone with him, instead leaving it behind in his car. These are “cardinal sins,” said Jones.
The RCMP noted St. Laurent is single and did not have many family members in the area.
St. Laurent had brought a tarp along, which would have kept the rain off of him, but was wearing running shoes unsuitable for the rugged terrain, noted Jones.
St. Laurent ate blueberries after his food ran out after two days, and drank some water, but was unable to start a fire.
By a stroke of luck, St. Laurent was discovered by an off-duty volunteer with North Shore Rescue who was on a trail run with her boyfriend.
It took her some time to figure out that this was St. Laurent as he was delusional, noted Jones.
The rescue worker used one of North Shore Rescue’s supply caches in the area to provide dry clothing, food and a hot drink for St. Laurent.
Her boyfriend went to notify park rangers that St. Laurent had been found, but by that time the encroaching darkness precluded the possibility of a helicopter rescue. A nine-person North Shore Rescue team returned, and set up a camp using supplies from a cache. Two rescuers stayed behind with St. Laurent helping to treat him for dehydration and provided morphine for the pain in his feet.
Jones said it is not exactly clear why Jones was not found earlier.
The weekend after he went missing on Oct. 13 there were many people hiking in the Hanes Valley area because of the nice weather, noted Jones.
It appears that St. Laurent could hear some of those hikers, and tried to communicate with them, he said,
It’s possible he may have seen some park rangers.
“In our time with him, he was still a bit confused. So we’re not sure exactly what he did,” said Jones, one of the two rescuers who stayed overnight with St. Laurent.
The North Vancouver man was suspected missing after his grey 1987 Volvo was found in the gravel parking lot near the base of the Grouse Skyride.
The incident was reported to police, who immediately contacted the North Shore Rescue, the mountain search-and-rescue team based in Vancouver.
The RCMP also put out a public call for information.
Although a ground and air search had been conducted for more than a week for the missing man, no evidence of his whereabouts was discovered in the steep and densely forested terrain in the North Shore mountains.
“Even with the helicopter, the bush is so dense and it’s such a big area, that if you can’t get out and signal somebody, you are going to go unseen,” said De Jong, the North Vancouver RCMP officer.Oct 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm #1794175
"He said he saw rescuers looking for him and could hear them, but that they couldn’t hear him."
It sounds like a simple whistle would have had him rescued within a few days.Oct 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm #1794198
Yup, a whistle, mirror, and a smoky fire would have helped. I count the sighting mirror on my compass rather than carry a separate signal mirror.
I have to debate the official's comment on a cell phone, but that may have been the reporter lumping it together. A cell phone is great, IF you have reception. Not having the other essentials and not telling anyone where you are going are major no-no's.
I see people going out with zero gear on day hikes all the time– no water or food, no flashlight, certainly not a map or compass, and wearing stuff like cotton sweats and flip-flops.
What did you guys think about the comment on running shoes? That seemed a little Old School to me.
I'm glad he's okay. Ten days is a long time!Oct 23, 2011 at 10:22 pm #1794206
dale … its in metro vancouver … which means literally a few minutes away from the yuppie houses in north vancouver and the ski lodge there …
theres usually reception around grouse …
like i said in the bear thread … i dont think most people realize how close the wilderness is to metro vancouver … heres a pic of the area around grouse … you can see the city right next to the mountan
if it doesnt make you jealous that we vancouver bums can walk out of our back door and do several 1000m+ peaks after work .. and stop by the yuppie sbucks afterwards … i dont know what will ;)Oct 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm #1794211
THAT Grouse Mountain? I've been there, eh? And a local call too— lost with no roaming charges :)
I think it would freak me out more being that close in and lost for 10 days.
Seattle isn't quite as dramatic with the falloff from urban to wilderness, but close with the suburban to wilderness shift. Run Google Maps on "North Bend, WA" and go to the satellite version. You go from 1 acre McMansion housing directly to the national forest and vertical geography. Excellent areas for bear/home owner conflicts.
My top solo survival scenarios are falling and getting injured or losing my gear. I've said before that I want SAR to find me warm and dry with my broken ankle propped up and and a hot beverage in my hand. "Ready to carry me down, fellas? Anybody have some pain killers? Watch that foot, fool!"Oct 24, 2011 at 8:38 am #1794280
I count the sighting mirror on my compass rather than carry a separate signal mirror.
Signal mirror? I've always heard that in the Coastal Pacific Northwest the sun never shines:-) (offered with a smile but am actually wondering about that)Oct 24, 2011 at 10:32 am #1794325
@buffaloskipperLocale: Gulf Coast
"He said he saw rescuers looking for him and could hear them, but that they couldn’t hear him."
It was also said that he was halucinating after the third day. He may have been imagining that as he was reported to be pretty much out of it when at the hospital. Sometimes it is difficult to make a judgement on what happend based on the limited information in the article.Oct 24, 2011 at 11:02 am #1794338
He may have had some sort of brain injury too. That is one of the things you always check for when someone has a fall.
We lost a hiker here a couple years ago. He was killed in a fall a ways off the trail he was supposed to be on and it didn't make a lot of sense on how why he got there and why he fell. He was the victim of a street mugging and life-threatening beating prior to that and may have had some sort of episode from a brain injury while on the hike. I could see this happening with someone who is older or out of shape and the physical stress of the hike causing a brain trauma. All conjecture and no science on my part, but it does make me wonder.Oct 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm #1794375
@chuckie_cheeseLocale: Arizona and British Columbia
Wow. This exact route, Lynn Valley to Grouse mountain, was the very first hike I did in my life. There are steep and cliffy sections but you would have to screw up to get far off trail or fall off a cliff.Oct 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm #1794377
@chuckie_cheeseLocale: Arizona and British Columbia
Also, the Hanes valley itself is not that remote by backpacking standards. There should be several parties on a normal weekend through it.
Also, I wore running shoes.Oct 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm #1794378
Too bad Adbusters didn't walk down the street and organize a "Occupy Grouse Mountain", they could have found him in 4 days.Oct 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm #1794930
Ten days is pretty gnarly.
Hey, this dude has a red sharpie, but no whistle or cell phone? Ha ha ha!!
I love the running shoe point also–not so cool being UL when you're frozen after taking dunk in the creek, eh spanky? (Yes, I know this is heresy, please don't take the bait if you're a carp :) ) This guy isn't a ul'er, he's a day hiker that leaves his cell phone behind and doesn't own a whistle. He hikes in running shoes because he wears them all week, etc… Lucky dude, at the end.Oct 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm #1795073
the thing is i dont think the guy was totally unprepared … he had extra munchies and tarp for what is basically a day hike
the biggest thing missing was a cell phone … maybe a whistle and a sure fire way of starting a fire (cue BPLers saying "NO FIRE OUTDOORS")
honestly, surviving 10 days when you expect to do a dayhike is very far outside the realm of reasonable expectations that you really wont be planning for that long …
can you imagine BPLers taking 1.5 lbs of food per day for a day hike in case they went poofy for that long ;)Oct 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm #1795078
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"the biggest thing missing was a cell phone … maybe a whistle and a sure fire way of starting a fire"
I think there's an app for that.
–B.G.–Oct 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm #1795401
NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. – Somewhere between Days Three and Nine, a wet, cold and stranded Michael St. Laurent became certain he had already saved himself.
The experienced hiker had thawed out his ice-block feet and calves, shimmied down steep mountain terrain to Vancouver and personally arranged for search and rescue to send him a lift.
He peeled out of his single-tarp shelter and packed up the makeshift camp in pitch darkness.
"And I'm waiting for this helicopter to stop by and then after a while I clue in: 'Hey, I've been hallucinating again,'" he recalled Wednesday, three days after a bone fide chopper really did retrieve the North Vancouver man in perilous condition.
"There's no distinction between what a dream is and what reality is."
The 45-year-old's dire predicament was solved by random chance last Saturday when a jogger and her boyfriend stumbled across the man in a rarely-visited area of the mountain north of Vancouver.
The pair gave him dry clothes, first aid and tomato with beef soup, caring for him until the fly-in could take place at first light the next morning.
Sitting in a hospital wheelchair, St. Laurent half-chuckled, half-scoffed as he described how he wound up suffering the near-death experience.
He had only planned to spend a day or so wandering through autumn sunshine around the backside of the popular Grouse Mountain on Oct. 13.
In his backpack he carried water, food for two days, a flashlight with batteries, a change of socks and a single tarp.
He had made the same trek twice before and didn't bother telling anyone where he was headed.
He didn't get as far as he'd hoped by dusk, so set up his tarp with warm weather in the forecast.
But it was a much chillier night that brought cold rain instead. In the morning he massaged his muscles and decided to move forward.
But sore feet turned into puffy feet and as he climbed off-trail in search of firewood to warm up his limbs, they just seized.
"I sprained my left knee, my right hip and my legs decided to quit on me at that point," he said, putting him on all fours.
"I am familiar from textbook perspectives with symptoms of frostbite, but up until I actually got stuck with my feet being immobile, I didn't know it was frostbite. I thought I was just a little bit cold and I could move on."
Day Three morphed into Day Four and that's when he started getting worried. Wood was wet and he had no matches or dry tinder to send out smoke signals.
By about his fifth day without food, he spotted a search party in the distance.
"I could see them, I could hear them, I yelled down to them," he said. "But they didn't hear me, they didn't see me. And the helicopter flew right over me. That was the first time I lost motivation."
A missing person's report was filed after people had found the man's car parked in the lot at the base of the mountain. Teams had gone out looking, but their efforts were fruitless.
He was hypothermic, losing energy and in agonizing pain. His hallucinations kept flowing just like life.
"When I was dreaming, I thought I was going to work, downtown, out with my friends," he said. "And something that my friends were begging me to do, dancing. Of all things, with my feet being like that."
Around his seventh or eighth day, St. Laurent scrawled his name, date of birth and medical conditions on his arm with a felt-tip pen. He figured it would help identify him if anyone found his body.
"I've got lots of plans, I still have things I want to do," he thought to himself at the time, feeling a deep cold settle into his liver and intestines.
"Frostbite in Vancouver in the middle of October? Common!" he said.
When his salvation arrived on Oct. 22, his hazy mind thought he'd been lost in the backcountry for three weeks.
"It was a great moment of relief," he said, noting the kindness of his rescuers.
He said the ordeal has left him humbled. Next time he sets out — and definitely, there will be future hikes — he'll tell someone where he's going first.
And he said he'd bring flares, and a GPS phone, and other survival gear.
"In retrospect, yes I should have left word," he said, adding that as his exposure to the elements dragged on, he thought he was at the end of his rope.
"If the search and rescue people hadn't found me, it would have been a while before people with snowshoes would have been going in."
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