Ultrarunner’s air rescue brings discussion on trail safety

Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park

Late last Saturday, a B.C. a woman’s run went horribly wrong and ended in her being airlifted off Mount Horne, near Qualicum Beach after search and rescue squads and the RCMP were unable to reach her any other way. Canadian Running reported on this on Monday using information from a Times Colonist report. Since then, more has come to light.

The trail runner left for a 35K run from Port Alberni to Qualicum Beach using Google Maps to plan her route. She acknowledges in her blog post  that she made many mistakes in preparing for last Saturday’s run saying she left later than she had hoped and left the car with only an energy bar, a flashlight and her fully charged iPhone. She expected to be out of challenging terrain and onto well-travelled roads within the first hour and a half of her run. Now she regrets not checking the terrain map as she was mapping her route.

The woman got lost and was unable to consult GPS after cold weather zapped her phone’s battery. Luckily for her, she was able to warm it enough to receive a call from an RCMP officer who told her that search and rescue was being sent out to get her. Since the terrain was too rough for a truck, she had to be airlifted. The helicopter picked her up at the top of the mountain 12:00 a.m. — nine hours after she left.

“I alone made a huge mistake that cost many amazing people time and resources,” she writes in her blog. “That feels pretty terrible.”



Safety and preparedness is key when heading out for a run, especially in remote areas and especially for trail runners. Derrick Spafford, a seasoned trail and ultrarunner and contributor to Canadian Running gives runners a basic breakdown on what to bring on trail runs. He says to always tackle runs equipped with a hydration pack, backpack, first aid kit, an additional lightweight jacket, map, emergency headlamp, phone, compass, GPS watch and tracking device as well as more food than you plan on consuming.

“These items don’t add a lot of weight to your pack, but can save your life if you run into trouble,” he says. As an added safety measure, Spafford advises to always sign the trail head. Runners of all abilities need to acknowledge that unforeseen circumstances can happen on the trails. “Even with these items in your pack, things can happen on the trail,” he says. “Be sure to let friends and family know where you’re going running and when you expect to return.”