Four people were airlifted out of Golden Ears Provincial park after an avalanche on Saturday.
Three people were injured by falling ice, and a fourth person who came to their aid suffered from suspected heat exhaustion.
Ally Faber said the three friends were hiking near Evans Peak area, where they visited a snow cave. They had started early, to beat the intense heat in the forecast.
The cave is cut into ice by the spring melt, and is high enough for the hikers to walk upright. They walked in for more than 100 meters, and the cave ended at a waterfall.
As they were taking in spectacular natural beauty, she said there was a noise like thunder. Large pieces of ice came hurtling down toward them.
“They were like ice trucks coming toward us at an alarming speed,” said Faber. “We all thought we were going to die, and not make it out of there.”
They tried to get out of the way, but were hit by ice and knocked down in the rocky cave, sustaining multiple injuries.
Faber suffered fractures in her foot, and was “banged up and bruised over my whole body.”
All of them were generally battered, and Mark Nieken suffered a head injury and gashes, while Andy Gamache also had a serious foot injury.
Nieken, the only one who was able to walk, went back through the cave to call for help from a group that had visited the waterfall ahead of them.
That departed trio was just able to faintly hear his call for help, and went back to the cave. They had a satellite communication device, and were able to call for help. One of them stayed with the injured hikers, while the other two hiked down to give more details to emergency responders.
Rick Laing of Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue said the emergency call came in at about noon on Saturday. They called for Talon Helicopters, who were delayed by heat-related complications with their aircraft.
It was about 7 p.m. that the group was finally airlifted out of the back country. The person with the head injury was taken out on an aerial rescue platform, while the other three were lifted out via harness. All were taken to Ridge Meadows Hospital for treatment, and released the same day.
Laing said the snow cave is not known as dangerous, and is a frequent destination for hikers. This is the first time there has been a call for injured hikers there, and he suspects the intense heat played a part in dislodging the ice.
He recommends people avoid the caves due to the intense heat.
Faber was grateful for the rescuers. With an injured foot, she had “scooted” out of the cave through glacier water, and in addition to being physically injured was actually shivering and traumatized when the search team arrived. They gave her a coat and an emergency blanket, and had food and water for all the victims.
“They were really great. I felt super safe with them,” she said.
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