An aerial view of Polar Peak at Fernie Alpine Resort. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Hiker recalls B.C. ski resort rescue

Nursing significant injuries, the woman clung to rocks for half an hour while waiting to be rescued.

A hiker has recalled the terrifying moment her friend slipped and fell 30 metres from the highest peak at a B.C. ski resort on Sunday.

Fernie resident Elly Fleming believes the 27-year-old woman, who did not wish to be identified, is lucky to have survived the ordeal with only cuts and bruises after coming within a metre of a sheer drop off into the valley below.

The New Zealand nationals were among a group of nine friends who visited Fernie Alpine Resort on Summer Community Appreciation Day to tackle Polar Peak Trail, an advanced hike that reaches an elevation of 2100 metres.

The group had stopped for lunch at the summit and the woman had walked with two men further along the ridge above Richard’s Run when the incident happened about 1:15 p.m.

“She was standing there and the gravel below her just slipped out and she just lost her footing,” said Fleming.

The woman slid 30 metres down the mountain on her stomach before managing to grab onto rocks and prevent herself from falling any further.

“Our friend saw her first and kind of called out in alarm, and we all turned around and saw her sliding,” said Fleming.

“She disappeared from view for a bit then we got sight of her and she was clinging onto the rocks. She was conscious and breathing, but yeah, pretty scary.”

Two members of the group called emergency services, which tasked Fernie Search and Rescue to conduct a long line helicopter rescue.

The hikers could only watch in horror as the woman clung to rocks while they waited for rescue personnel to arrive.

“No one could really do much because it was so steep that if they went to go help her they might have fallen off as well,” said Fleming.

“The poor thing had to sit for ages by herself because no one could get to her until we had the right equipment.

“We just called out to keep encouraging her, just trying to keep her spirits up and keep her holding on. It’s just lucky she wasn’t really badly injured I guess, because she had to stay quite still on the rock and not slip down any further.”

By pure coincidence, a highly experienced and qualified ski and mountain guide was also hiking in the area.

He was able to use abseiling equipment from the Polar Peak hut to rappel down to the injured woman and bring her back up to the summit, with the help of members of Fleming’s group.

Fernie SAR arrived on scene just after 2 p.m. and airlifted the woman to the ski hill base, where BC Ambulance Service was waiting.

She was taken to Elk Valley Hospital and treated for significant abrasions and contusions to the front of her body.

“Some of her finger pads have gone, her hands are really cut up and her ankle is pretty sore but nothing broken, thank goodness,” said Fleming on Monday.

“She’s really cut up and obviously really tender… the whole thing was pretty traumatic because it could have been a lot worse than it was, so she’s lucky.”

Fernie SAR Manager Rob Lanthier agreed.

“It is very important to note that the rescue by the fellow hiker was not just a casual passerby, but a highly experienced and qualified ski and mountain guide who happened to be in the right spot at the right time,” he said in a Facebook post on Monday.

“Fernie SAR, and I am sure the injured woman, are highly thankful to have so many talented and experienced Fernie residents who are able to help out in such a situation.”

It was the woman’s first time summitting Polar Peak but she was an experienced hiker, according to friends.

The group has thanked all those involved in the rescue, saying they remained “calm and professional” throughout.

Just Posted

Jumbo’s legal boondoggle continues

Province appealing the BC Supreme Court decision

Brewer Creek: a fall classic

Summit Trail Makers Society

More burning prohibitions rescinded in southeast B.C.

Category 2 and 3 fires will be permitted in Southeast Fire Centre as of 1p.m. on Wednesday.

Keeping bears wild

Tips from WildSafe BC community coordinators

64 cats seized from ‘bad situation’ now in BC SPCA care

The surrender is part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation with BC SPCA Special Constable

Wartime Wednesdays

Invermere’s Elinor Florence investigates stories from our wartime past

Recent jump in U.S. butter imports? All smooth, says Canadian dairy farmers

U.S. farmers recently enjoyed extra access to the Canadian market

Potential replacements for Phoenix pay system to start testing soon: Brison

Testing of prototypes to replace troubled federal pay system will begin within weeks

Nanaimo’s Tilray Inc. briefly the world’s largest cannabis company

The company, only listed in the US, nearly reached $300 in afternoon trading on Wednesday

Woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart released from prison

Smart was 14 years old when she was snatched from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 by street preacher Brian David Mitchell

New York books editor out after backlash over Jian Ghomeshi essay

Ian Buruma, who was appointed as editor of the New York Review of Books in late 2017, no longer works for the publication

B.C. couple plans sustainable, zero-waste life in the Shuswap

Plan includes building a tiny house before the snow flies

Housing slowdown forecast to cool B.C. economy

Conference Board says pipeline, trade uncertainty affecting investment

Most Read