CANMORE – Two hikers spent a long, cold night stranded on Grotto Mountain near Canmore, lighting a fire and building a lean-to to seek shelter as frigid temperatures dipped to around -13 C.
The two Alberta men, believed to be in their mid-20s, had accidentally gone off the designated trail while descending from the summit of the 2,706-metre peak on Nov. 12, finding themselves in a dangerous position on cliff-bands near the Rat’s Nest Cave area as darkness set in.
“They got a little off track on the descent and that put them in the cliff-band just to the left of Rat’s Nest Cave area,” said Matt Mueller, a public safety specialist with Kananaskis Country Public Safety (KCPS).
“Somehow they managed to work down through two of the cliff-bands and then ended up on this promontory overlook-type thing.”
With darkness setting in, the hikers raised the alarm via cell phone.
Knowing the two men had warm clothes and plenty of food, rescuers advised them to stay put and spend the night.
Not only were the stranded hikers well-equipped, but Mueller said they were mentally prepared to spend a cold night on the mountain.
“They weren’t intimidated to spend the night out camping and they were in good health and good spirits,” he said.
“For some reason they had a hatchet, like almost one of these multi-tool machete-type things, so that allowed them to build a small fire and have a shelter with a little lean-to they’d built.”
Mueller said there were many conversations throughout the night to check-in.
“There were no injuries, they had food, they were well dressed, and any time we checked in they were more than comfortable,” he said.
At first light, rescuers and Alpine Helicopters set out, heli-slinging the two men off the mountain around 7:30 a.m. Nov. 13 – both uninjured and healthy.
“It was about -12 or -13 C when we slung in that morning. Had it been the night before it would have been probably -23 C up where they were,” said Mueller.
“They were halfway up the mountain, in mature trees, but still exposed to the wind.”