A traveller from Belgium clung desperately to life by holding onto a shrub after tumbling about 100 metres down a steep mountainside on the Little Beehive near Lake Louise shortly before darkness fell late Monday (Dec. 30).
The man, believed to be in his mid-20s, managed to call for help on his cell phone shortly before 4 p.m. and rescuers slung him safely off the mountain within the hour. Temperatures plummeted to -26 C overnight.
“He’s one lucky guy. He basically walked off the edge and fell 100 metres,” said rescuer Marc Ledwidge, Parks Canada’s manager of visitor safety in the mountain parks.
“If it wasn’t for the phone, he probably wouldn’t have made it through the night in those conditions and with the clothes he had. He was wearing blue jeans, and he had no hat and no gloves. Hypothermia would have been a major issue.”
It’s believed the man arrived in Lake Louise on a Greyhound bus from Calgary earlier that day, checked into the Hostelling International-Canadian Alpine Centre at Lake Louise and decided to go for a walk.
Above Lake Louise, he took the one kilometre side trip from Lake Agnes to the Little Beehive, a former fire lookout offering commanding views of the Bow Valley.
Ledwidge said the man raised the alarm on his cell phone just before 4 p.m. and rescuers were there in a helicopter within an hour, spotting him clinging to a shrub on the side of the mountain within 10 minutes.
“He wanted to get a better view and take a photo, and literally walked right off the edge,” he said.
“He was in very steep terrain and managed to grab a shrub to stop from falling further down the slope. He tried to climb back up, but he couldn’t.”
Ledwidge said the hiker chose not to go to hospital for a checkup. He suffered minor injuries, such as cuts and bruises.
He said he was slung to safety below a helicopter.
“Our plan B would have been to search for him on foot, which would have been significantly more difficult as it was dark by that time,” Ledwidge said.