Ontario hikers found after six days in the Keremeos backcountry

Two Ontario hikers who went missing in the backcountry near Keremeos showed up just as the search was about to be called off.

Two Ontario hikers who went missing in the backcountry near Keremeos showed up just as the search was about to be called off.

Lynne Carmody, 61, and Richard Moynan, 59, from North Bay, Ont. survived six days in the wilderness with little food or supplies after getting lost on a hike from the Cathedral Lakes Lodge.

The call that the two had been found just after 4 p.m. Sunday couldn’t have been timed better.

“We had already met with the family and spoken with them about suspending the search at the end of that day if nothing had been found,” said Paul Berry, search manager Comox Valley Search and Rescue. “To the point that we flew the family up into the park to one of the more scenic areas. Really, we took them up there for a last goodbye and it was at that time the call came in that they were located.”

Over 250 volunteer Search and Rescue workers took part in the search from 19 different  organizations from as far west as Vancouver Island and as far north as Prince George.

On June 23 the two left for a hike from the resort and went off trail, travelling further out of the park area into a heavily-wooded drainage northwest of Red Mountain.

When they determined they were lost, they set up a makeshift shelter near a creek and stayed put, a good strategy according to Berry.

“That’s certainly what we teach. We teach starting in kindergarten that if you’re lost stay put so we can find you, Berry said. “They did travel around trying to reorientate themselves, but for the most part they stayed near the shelter waiting for rescue.”

Moynan and Carmody eventually saw the Search and Rescue workers using HETS (Human External Transport System) helicopters to be extracted by air from the deep brush and were able to get a bearing as to where they were.

“Linda and Richard saw the searches being pulled out close enough to them that they could tell the colour of the rope under the helicopter. I think it dawned on them that they were in pretty heavy bush and could not be seen,” Berry said.

Dog teams were sent out Sunday morning, but Berry said the two were already on the move.

“They used the helicopters as a reference to guide themselves back,” Berry said.  “They were found in a trail coming virtually right into the backdoor of the lodge.”

Berry said the two were in “pretty good shape” adding they were malnourished and banged up.

“They were in surprisingly good condition,” he said.

While hunkering down is a good strategy, Berry said the situation could have been a lot better if the hikers had taken certain precautions.

“We talk about trip planning. Plan and stick to your plan and leave your plan with someone,” Berry said.

He added to brush up on wilderness navigation skills and leaving for a trip with the proper equipment to both sustain life and signal searchers if you are lost.

“They took virtually nothing with them. Didn’t have a flashlight, didn’t have a match to start a fire with,” Berry said.

The search effort was a large one, and many gave up their time to rush to the aid of strangers.

“Those hundreds of people that came to the aid of Lynne and Richard gave up time with their children, with their families, took time away from work to go to the aid of someone they didn’t know. It’s pretty amazing calling 80 teams in the province of B.C. that do this multiple times a year,” Berry said.

“Happy endings are the best. Particularly given the circumstances.”