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Snowboarders rescued from icy gully off Cypress Mountain
A group of snowboarders rescued from an icy gully outside the Cypress Mountain ski area boundary last night were lucky to escape unscathed, according to North Shore Rescue.
The snowboarders — one female and three males in their 20s — called friends from a cellphone at approximately 4:15 p.m., saying they were stuck on the eastern side of Cypress in the Capilano Watershed, 1 km from the controlled ski area. The friends notified Cypress Mountain staff who dispatched NSR to an infamous area known as Australian gully which has taken lives over the years.
NSR team leader Tim Jones said a helicopter with a two-man team was hovering over the area within 20 minutes of the call and just as the sun was setting. The trapped snowboarders were quickly spotted by the NSR team on board the helicopter who rappelled down into the area. They were backed by 11 NSR members on the ground who trekked in on skis and snowmobiles.
"It was a full-on winter rescue," said Jones. "Six [long] lines were set. Crampons were used. It was not a cakewalk by any means."
Three of the snowboarders were found in one area. One of the males had set off away from the group and was stranded in another gully. Rescuers found him exhausted with a foot injury from attempting to climb an ice crest.
"He would have fallen to his death," said Jones. "That's how quickly things happen in this environment."
NSR walked all four snowboarders out of the gully and through a network of trails in the Capilano Watershed, ending up at the Cleveland Dam. The snowboarders — who had not been prepared for backcountry conditions — did not sustain any serious injuries.
All told, the rescue took five hours, said Sgt. Jeff Young of the West Vancouver Police Department, adding that it was quicker than some of the other NSR operations which can last overnight.
"That's the difference between a rescue and a search," added Young. "They knew where to look [for the snowboarders]."