The body of an experienced hiker who went missing in a mountain range on northern Vancouver Island has been found.
Laurence Philippsen, 65, set off on a three-day solo hiking expedition through a mountain range in Strathcona Provincial Park on June 29 and was expected to return home to Black Creek on July 2 but never did.
The missing 65-year-old’s vehicle was found on a logging road near Mount Filberg, where it was expected to be, triggering a massive search and rescue effort that continued for days until it was formally called off. Private searches continued after search and rescue abandoned efforts to locate Philippsen.
Philippsen’s body was discovered on the south side of Mount Laing last week by a hiker that had gone out to look for him, according to friend Lindsay Elms.
“There was a little bluff there that they weren’t sure about. So, they turned around and started coming back and they came down the ridge and they just happened to come across Laurence’s body,” Elms said.
“As soon as he got back that evening, he texted me telling me that he had found the body and that he had contacted the RCMP.”
BC Coroners Service confirmed to CHEK that they were notified about a body matching Philippsen’s description discovered in Strathcona Provincial Park last week and are now investigating.
“We are investigating to determine how, where, when, and by what means a male came to his unexpected death,” Andy Watson, communications manager with the BC Coroners Service, told CHEK. “We were notified on Aug. 13.”
Philippsen was considered by friends and search and rescuers as a highly experienced hiker and climber. His journey involved trekking through some rugged mountains in the popular provincial park, including Mount Filberg, Mount Cobb, and Mount Laing.
“Laurence was 65 but he had the fitness of a 30-year-old. He was a very confident, very strong and very safe climber,” recalled Elms.
Elms said he had been hiking and climbing with Philippsen for the past five years and considered him one of the safest and most knowledgable out there.
“I’ve been around accidents before in the mountains and I want to make sure that who I climb with is safe, especially if I am going some places that I’ve never been too and mountains that I’ve never climbed before and that’s where Laurence came in,” Elms said.
“He had worked up at Vernon Lake, up Island, and was also interested in going to these remote obscure peaks. He had the experience from working up there in the logging industry and so he knew all the roads and I utilized all his knowledge.”
“We would go in and climb all these obscure peaks. There were no trails, no information about them but Laurence had the natural ability to be able to find the route through the bush up into the alpine. Once we were in the alpine, he had the skills and knowledge to safely climb.”
Elms said there was a core group of friends that included Philippsen, who would often get together and hike and climb remote rugged mountains on the Island. He said Philippsen always enjoyed telling stories.
“We would usually drive up to the end of the logging roads, camp the night before and sit around the fire telling stories and then go out climbing the next day,” Elms recalled, adding. “He had done lots of climbing over the years and so he had lots of stories to tell.”
Philippsen was also a great teacher and had a keen interest in helping younger, less experienced climbers.
“He was also really interested in getting new people out into the mountains,” Elms said. “He was fast and he could go at any pace, taking new people out there at their speed and their level and teaching them the skills.”
Before Philippsen began his trek into Strathcona Provincial Park, he had told Elms about his plan and had done his homework.
“He did his research before he went into the area. He talked about to me about where he was wanting to go and then there was another friend that I put him in touch with that had gone into these mountains and done it a slightly different way,” Elms explained. “So, that’s where Laurence got his GPS tracks and used them to follow his route into the mountains. He left detailed information on where he was going, how long he would be out for. He had all the equipment necessary for what he was doing.”
Elms said what happened to Philippsen was a tragic, unfortunate freak accident that could have happened to anyone.
“The accident that occurred could have happened to anyone out there,” he said. “He wasn’t being reckless, it was just one of those freak accidents.”
Philippsen leaves behind a wife, two children, and two grandchildren.
[email protected] with files from Dean Stoltz.