Nelson Search and Rescue helped pull an injured snowmobiler out of the forest at Kootenay Pass this past weekend.
A man in his mid-20s had been riding along the south shore of Monk Lake with four others on snowmobiles, at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, when he was thrown from his machine and fell badly, suffering what appeared to be a spinal cord injury. Two riders went to get help while the others stayed with the injured man, administering what first aid they could.
By the time Search and Rescue received the call, at about 4:30 p.m., it was too late to get a helicopter or any sort of air transport to the scene, so the evacuation had to be done by land.
Creston Search and Rescue members, who managed the search with a half dozen volunteers on site, also brought in a team of five from Nelson SAR, who have extensive experience working in avalanche terrain, and two from South Columbia SAR, as additional backup.
They also contacted the Creston Snowmobile Club and managed to get seven people on snowmobiles to bring rescuers out to the scene, about 20 kilometres from the trailhead off Highway 3A.
Fortunately, the avalanche risk was low, which allowed the rescuers to go into what can sometimes be dangerous terrain at night.
“By time we reached the subject, his two companions had decided to take the risk and move him down from lake, [about 10 kilometres] to Maryland Creek Forest Service Road,” Nelson search manager Scott Spencer explained.
When his team arrived, Spencer said, they found the injured man very cold and shivering.
“We re-warmed him, did our assessment, and packaged him properly for spine injury [and] onto a rescue toboggan.”
They had originally planned to care for the man through the night and get him airlifted out at first light. But because he was now much closer to the trailhead, the rescuers decided to continue moving him out.
“It was fairly arduous,” said Spencer. “There was a lot of steep terrain that challenged the snow machines. We had to do some hand pulling and skiing down on some of the steeper slopes to maintain control of the toboggan.”
The injured man was in good spirits throughout the ordeal, keeping up a conversation with rescuers, Spencer said.
At about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the team reached the highway, where an ambulance was waiting to bring the man to the Trail hospital.
According to Spencer, Search and Rescue regularly helps extract injured people from the backcountry. But it’s usually a much simpler process because they can get in by air.
“If we’d received the call even just a half hour sooner, we might have been able to get in by air and had him out right away,” he said, adding that a satellite phone or SPOT personal tracker can be valuable tools in the backcountry if you need to call for help.
“If you’re going to go out in the backcountry, be prepared for anything to happen and have a plan if it does.”