Brothers ill-prepared for winter hike up Burke Mountain saved by Coquitlam Search and Rescue

A 16-member Coquitlam Search and Rescue team were involved in the rescue on Saturday, Nov. 12. Coquitlam SAR Facebook photo

Two freezing high school-aged brothers had to be rescued by a Coquitlam Search and Rescue team over the weekend, after a blundering hike up Burke Mountain turned bitter cold.

The young hikers displayed what “absolutely not” to do when caught in wintry conditions , according to Ray Nordstrand, Coquitlam SAR manager.

“Hiking in the summertime is not the same as hiking in the winter,” Nordstrand said. “If you’re not prepared, if you don’t have snow and winter equipped materials, it’s probably best once you hit snow to turn around and come back.”

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The two brothers, aged 17 and 18, set out on Saturday to hike to Dennett Lake, more than 3,000 feet above sea level. 

Nordstrand said once the brothers hit snow, they continued the hike even though they did not have winter-appropriate footwear or clothing.

Their pace slowed down, slogging through waist-deep snow in some spots, causing snow to creep in their boots and freeze their feet.

Nordstrand said they hiked just past Hourglass Lake, approximately 1,200 feet above sea level, before they decided to turn back.

On the descent, their feet had become so cold they needed to stop and break. Soon after they decided they couldn’t continue and dialled 9-11.

Coquitlam SAR got the call at 3:45 p.m., but the 16-member team was unable to reach the brothers until just before 9 p.m.

They were found huddled together and shaking, having removed their jackets, boots and socks in an attempt to warm their feet in their clothing.

“When we got to them they were wet and shivering with their boots off,” Nordstrand said. “Removing clothing when you’re cold and wet – it’s not a wise thing to do.

“Our statement to them was to stomp your feet and keep moving.”

SAR members provided them with food, new clothing, plastic covers to put over their fresh socks so they could put their boots back on.

They hiked down until they could reach an off-road SAR vehicle, which delivered them to their waiting parents at 11 p.m.

All aspects of their clothing could have been improved upon, Nordstrand said, adding that while they had an axe, and fire-starting equipment, they were unable to start a fire.

He said the situation could have been worse, as there are some areas on Burke Mountain with limited cell phone coverage, and finding them could have taken a lot longer.

One of the brothers said he’d made the round trip in four hours during the summer, but the other did not have any experience, according to Nordstrand.

“Having a little bit of training would have gone a long way,” he said. “A four-hour hike can be significantly longer in the winter.”

Neither of the brothers required treatment in hospital, Nordstrand said.

The brothers intended to hike to Dennett Lake, but turned back after passing Hourglass Lake. Edited Google Maps image.

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