Beacon guides rescue crew to injured Okanagan hiker

A spot beacon helped an experienced hiker from difficulty near Cherryville on the weekend.

A spot beacon helped an experienced hiker from difficulty near Cherryville on the weekend.

The 52-year-old Okanagan man had been hiking in the Twin Lakes area east of Cherryville Sunday and had been sending messages through the beacon to his wife saying he was having a great time.

Shortly after noon, the man fell and badly twisted his ankle, so he hit the beacon’s panic button, which set off a long but successful rescue attempt.

“We weren’t notified about the man until about 4 p.m. Sunday by the RCMP,” said Leigh Pearson, search manager with Vernon Search and Rescue.

Attempts to retrieve the hiker using an RCMP helicopter were unsuccessful due to the thin air and the high temperatures, which prevents the RCMP chopper from lifting off.

Vernon Search and Rescue then sent a crew in by foot to tend to the injured hiker.

“It took about three hours and 15 minutes to reach him,” said Pearson. “Once the crews got there, they stabilized him and spent the night with him.”

In the morning, a Penticton Search and Rescue helicopter was brought in and was able to land within 50 feet of the hiker and crew.

The injured man was loaded onto the helicopter and flown to a waiting ambulance in Cherryville, then taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital for treatment of a possible broken ankle.

The copter returned to the site to pick up the search crew.

Pearson said the hiker was well prepared to spend the night.

The spot beacon played a key role in getting the search crew to the injured hiker.

“You can pick these things up at Walmart, Canadian Tire or any sporting good store,” said Pearson.

“They have a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) but the one complaint we’ve heard about them is that, sometimes, the GPS is not very accurate. In this case, it was absolutely right on and everything about the rescue was beautiful.”