After an intense search operation that lasted more than 50 hours, Esther Wang made a safe return from Golden Ears Park on her own by Friday.
The 16-year-old went missing on Tuesday, June 27 when search and rescue teams from across Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland were searching for her.
Wang has penned down her ordeal in a letter. Here’s the timeline.
The group began hiking from North Beach and hiked via the East West Canyon Connector to access the Golden Ears Trail. But due to the difficult nature of the hiking trail, Wang lost sight of her group because she was focused on the trail in front of her.
After realizing that she was lost, she tried to find the correct path but fell down and reached a flatter surface, she added.
“I started to hear whistles and noises that sounded like a signal. I started to climb the mountain towards the noises; however, I still could not locate the signals,” wrote Wang.
After failed attempts to alert the search crews, she decided to look for shelter and water for the night.
Wang was able to refill her bottle and had food packed for the hike. She tried sleeping near a rock but couldn’t because of the cold weather.
After noticing searchlights in the mountain at 1 a.m., she used her headlamp to get attention but to no avail.
“I was filled with hopelessness and fear, but I knew I could not give up.”
At 5 a.m. she tried to climb back up the mountain but failed to do so. Instead, she started working her way down the mountain, moving downstream but slipped and hit her head.
Thankfully, she retained consciousness and had the energy to continue moving.
But throughout the day, she could see the rescue team’s helicopter overhead but her attempt to grab their attention failed.
Making noises, singing and even shaking the trees nearby didn’t work.
“Everything I tried failed.”
For the rest of the day, she continued hiking to the top of the mountain to get a better view and hopefully alert the search crews of her location.
She also used her phone to make noises, in case someone on the other end might hear it. But, her phone was running low on battery and at some point during the hike, she lost the device.
Exhausted, after reaching the top of the mountain, Wang decided to sleep under a tree till the next morning.
After waking up, she started looking at the photos on her digital camera to recall landmarks she passed on her way.
“Once I was down the mountain, I found a rapid river flowing downstream. As I continued to follow the river, I noticed pink tape on some trees around me and my hopes soared high,” Wang wrote.
She found a gravel path near the river and followed it until it led her to the beach.
However, this wasn’t the place she was hoping to reach.
This was Hiker’s Beach and she needed to reach Gold Creek parking lot, a 1.5 hours hike in the opposite direction. But she began to feel lightheaded.
“So, I dragged my feet back to the river and crossed as carefully as possible and followed the path. I began to feel dizzy, and I started to imagine things in front of me when there clearly wasn’t anyone around me.”
She continued to motivate herself and by 9:15 p.m. she had reached the gravel road at the Gold Creek parking lot, where she saw some people in the distance.
She waved at them and recognized that it was her parents.
Despite her determination, Wang thanked the search and rescue teams who she credits for leading the way to her safe return.
Wang had multiple bruises and scratches and her heels were bleeding as the wet socks rubbed against her skin.
The teenage hiker has four years of Air Cadet program experience which she also credits for her survival.
“The information I have learned from aviation to survival skills played a huge role in my ability to sustain myself in the wilderness,”
Both Wang and her family have expressed gratitude for the support and search efforts by rescue teams.
“They are very thankful for this outcome and request privacy at this time, said Superintendent Wendy Mehat at Ridge Meadows RCMP.
Both police and SARs are reminding people to carry the 10 essentials when in the backcountry. Here’s the list.
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- Extra food and water
- Extra clothing
- Navigational aids
- Fire starter
- First Aid kit
- Emergency shelter
- Sun protection
- Pocket knife
- Signalling device