A family’s recent overnight hiking trip was stalled when a member fell down a flight of stairs at Groundhog Lake, east of Quesnel, resulting in a broken ankle and a rescue call.
According to Doug Zdanivsky, his wife Svetlana severely fractured her ankle late last month climbing an 8- to 10-foot stairway leading to an outbuilding at a Wells Snowmobile Club recreation site. The stairs were extra high to ensure access during the winter months when snow makes access difficult, he said.
After hearing her scream, the family rushed to Svetlana, who was lying next to the broken stairs. Doug said he could see that she was hurt pretty badly.
“It was heartbreaking, we’ve done several multi-day hikes as a family in far more remote areas and nothing like this has ever happened to us.”
Doug sent his two sons, Nathan and Daniel, and their dog to go to Barkerville to seek help and contact the RCMP to liaise with Quesnel Search and Rescue.
It took the Zdanivsky brothers 30 minutes to pack up their gear and another 1.5 hours to return. Doug, who has worked in search and rescue in Mackenzie for ten years, knew his wife needed to be extracted.
As they waited for help, Doug said he made Svetlana as comfortable as possible, using his first-aid kit to wrap her ankle in a bandage, elevate her leg with blankets, and used sleeping pads to get them to lie down could.
Svetlana was a little shocked, so sugary drinks and comfort made the situation more bearable. Doug also found some snow at the top of the trail, which he made into an ice pack. They waited for help in the groundhog shelter at the recreation ground.
After about five hours, Quesnel Search and Rescue arrived at the site around midnight in two ATVs and transported Doug and Svetlana back to their truck in the Barkerville parking lot.
Doug says he’s glad to have his first aid kit with him, but wishes he had a satellite comm device, which could have contacted the search and rescue team more quickly and saved his sons a trip.
“You don’t think that you have to go all out on such an easy hike so close to civilization. We had four of us where we could have overcome any obstacle, but you still have surprises like this.”
Doug said he’s glad this happened in an area where they could find help and that the injury wasn’t more serious.
Tips he would share with fellow hikers for being as prepared as possible include: Leave a travel plan with someone you trust before you set off, even if you think it might be will be an easy hike.
Be alert when you reach the goal.
Always take your bear spray with you.
Check railings and stairs before putting full weight on them.
Keep your food and cooking area about 100m from your tent and have a bear hanger or locker for your food.
Wear water shoes when walking in lakes and rivers.
Keep young children within sight of them at all times and make sure they are well hydrated and protected from the sun.
Check that you have the medication you need for several days and that it has not expired.
Whenever possible, travel in a group.
Prepare to take shelter on the spot, and bring food, first aid (and knowledge), and water.
Have the numbers you need for the area written down on a paper printout, preferably permanent paper and ink (any friends and relatives nearby, valet, local police, JRCC).
Know your location, preferably latitude/longitude, MGRS or UTM coordinates. The agency you reach out to may have no idea where you are, he said.
A CT scan revealed Svetlana broke her talar bone and will initially wear a boot for a month, followed by further recovery.
Bob Zimmerman, president of Quesnel Search and Rescue, said it was a typical outcome of a rescue, but stressed that satellite communications can make a world of difference when help is needed on a trail.
Zimmerman explained that if only two people had hiked, the injured would have had to be left behind while the uninjured would have hiked for help, leaving people in a more vulnerable situation. He said it’s beneficial to share with someone else when you’re leaving and planning to come back from a hike.
He recommends having a contingency plan that takes weather conditions into account in case something happens, and always trying to take shelter on the spot so the team can easily find people who need rescue. That can be difficult in colder weather conditions, like rain or snow, which can pose a risk of hypothermia, Zimmerman said.
Doug is very grateful for the help from Quesnel Search and Rescue.
“I know what it means to drop everything and help strangers on days you wanted to be with your family and friends instead. I never thought I would be on the other end of a call. Thank you for everything you do so that others can live.”
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