Climbers rescued from dangerous, steep terrain in Naramata

Two men are lucky their Sunday evening hike in Naramata didn’t turn tragic.

Two men are lucky their Sunday evening hike in Naramata didn’t turn tragic.

Naramata Volunteer Fire Department Chief Will McCutcheon said it took two hours to recover the pair who were perched on the steep cliffs above Mill Bay Road in Naramata.

“The cliffs there are over 200 feet high that these two fellows from out of the area decided to hike straight up the face of. They did not have climbing gear, nor were they prepared to stay for a long duration, so they didn’t bring any food or clothing,” said McCutcheon. “They just had T-shirts and shorts on and definitely not prepared to go up that kind of terrain.”

The two men decided to scale the area and got to a point where it started to reach vertical grade and stopped. McCutcheon said they made the right choice to call down to the road for help. It was around 9 p.m. when someone heard their pleas and dialled 911. The fire department called Penticton Search and Rescue and set up a command post on Mill Bay Road to illuminate the area as the sun was quickly going down. McCutcheon said other firefighters went to a property above the cliff and set up on a ridge to relay information between the hikers and rescuers.

“These cliffs are quite different than your standard foot path or established climbing area. It is old glacial deposits and they are very loose. The material turns to talc very quickly so it is not stable and these two fellows did not know the cliff-face conditions,” said McCutcheon. “There is no established climbing route for this and even sending a member over to rappel down to secure them and relay them down to Mill Road it was over 200 feet. We had to be very careful of the loose material being brought down during the rescue operation. It was a concern for sure because even as they were being brought down it created a cloud of silt dust and you lose all visibility.”

At around 11 p.m. both men were brought down to safety. McCutcheon praised the work of the firefighters and quick activation of the Penticton Search and Rescue team, which he said is “critical” in these types of situations.

Emergency calls kept the Naramata Fire Department hopping all week. On Saturday at 7:34 p.m.. the volunteer department got a call for stranded boaters. McCutcheon said a catamaran had flipped leaving its two occupants in the water.

“The first reports came in that they were standing on the flipped-over catamaran, then when our boat arrived two people were in the water and their boat had drifted off aways,” he said.

The pair were wearing wetsuits when firefighters picked them up. McCutcheon said a private watercraft came by and offered to take them out to their catamaran to retrieve it.

“This is a reminder for everyone to be wearing the proper gear in addition to a personal floatation device. The water is still pretty cold and wetsuits can add to your buoyancy and also keeps you thermally protected,” said McCutcheon. “Also tell people where you are going and when you are expected back.”

Also on the weekend the B.C. Ambulance service attended to a bicycle rider on the KVR trail who suffered a fall. McCutcheon said the operator of the bike was in the Arawanna area when she fell in the loose, sandy gravel.

Fire officials believe a can of stain left in the sun may have been responsible for a small fire at a Fourth Street residence in Naramata last Wednesday. McCutcheon said no one was home at the time of the fire and it was quickly put out by neighbours.

When fire crews arrived they applied more water and checked the interior of the log structure with a thermal camera to make sure it was completely out. There was minimal damage. McCutcheon reminded people to be very careful with highly flammable liquids, especially with the arrival of warmer weather. A fire last July which gutted a three-level home on Spiller Road was believed to have been caused by cloth rags used for staining that spontaneously combusted. At that time Chief Wayne Williams of Penticton Fire Rescue advised people to dispose of such materials in airtight containers.

-with files from Mark Brett/Penticton Western News