VANCOUVER—An injured hiker tried to tell rescuers that she was to blame for being abandoned on a steep trail in the woods as darkness set in on Vancouver’s north shore.
On Sunday, the woman was left behind by fellow hikers she met through an online meetup group. North Shore Rescue said it ran into members of the group while setting out to find her, and the hikers said they had no plans of calling to get her help.
A Good Samaritan stumbled across her on the trail. She was unable to walk, so he called 911 for help and began helping her down the mountain.
Allan McMordie, who managed the rescue operation, was giving the hikers a talking to when the injured woman tried to take blame for the incident. She’d just come out of the forest with other members of the rescue team, he said.
“She was quite tired; her English was very poor,” McMordie said.
The hiker had rolled her ankle. She was dressed in blue jeans and some sort of sparkly shoes that were not hiking boots.
“She could see that I was chastising her friends and she tried to say that it was her that was ‘bad’ and not her friends,” he said.
“I think she was feeling embarrassed, but that wasn’t the point. Her friends had abandoned her, and I was trying to tell them you just don’t do that, no matter what, and she was trying to deflect that.”
The story, which has attracted international attention, offers an important lesson for hiking in a group.
The rescue organization has said it’s unclear whether the woman had been injured before or after she was abandoned on the trail.
After four decades with North Shore Rescue, McMordie said Sunday’s incident is the first time he’s encountered such disregard for a fellow hiker.
“(We’ve seen) nothing as bad as this, where they’ve actually left somebody behind and didn’t even let somebody know,” he said.
“These people just seemed to be willing to hop in a car and leave and not even tell anybody that she was up there.”
There aren’t any laws specific to group hiking safety, McMordie said, but there are “understood guidelines” and “just common decency” that you should travel at the speed of the slowest hiker.
“You should change your objective if the person is not strong enough to make it all the way,” he said.
The woman was found on steep terrain called the Coliseum Mountain trail. A local hiker’s guide, vancouvertrails.com, rates it as “difficult” because it’s a 10-hour-long, 23-km round-trip with a difference in elevation of more than 1,200 metres. Jagged and slippery rocks, loose dirt, mud, exposed roots and fallen trees all pose tripping hazards on the trail.
“These people should not have attempted an objective like Mt. Coliseum,” McMordie said.
“None of them had enough food or water and no one had a map.”
McMordie explained that during the hike, the group of five split into a slow group and a fast group. The woman who would eventually get injured and left behind was in the slow group with one other person. The fast group, which had three people, went on ahead.
But even the fast group faced difficulties.
“Those three people actually got onto the wrong trail and ended up getting lost themselves,” McMordie said.
They came out of the trails in the next valley over, away from where they’d parked their car.
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The man in the slow group managed to stay on the trail. When he arrived at the cars, he saw the fast group hadn’t arrived.
“He fails to phone 911 to say I’ve left somebody behind. He goes (off in his car) to try and find the other three, who are way over in the other valley,” McMordie explained in an incredulous tone.
The search-and-rescue team ran into him as he tried and failed to go pick up the other hikers at another trail head. His vehicle was blocked by park road gates that are locked at night.
When setting out to find the woman and the Good Samaritan who had been helping her, the rescue team also ran into the faster group. Eventually, all five were reunited.
The story has drawn ire from readers, who’ve commented that legal action of some sort is in order.
Roy Ho, who practices civil law, said it would be hard to build a case against the woman’s fellow hikers.
“I just don’t see how far you would get,” Ho said.
“If she hurt herself while hiking, her other group members can’t be said to be criminally negligent for her hurting herself.”
In terms of civil law, Ho said it would depend on the conversations that happened between the woman and the hiker who left her.
“The question is: Was her other group member negligent, causing her harm, injury, damage?”
In this story, there are too many unknowns to say for sure whether suing the hiker would be viable, Ho said.
“You can’t really answer that question about whether they were negligent without knowing perhaps the conversation, the relationship and … whether some harm befell her because of this action (when he left her).”
If he had left her while she was injured, and she claimed that caused her emotional distress or harm, she could sue him and say he was negligent, Ho said.
But if nothing more happened to her after he left, and the Good Samaritan came across her quite quickly, it would be hard for her to succeed in suing him, he said.