‘Dangerous terrain:’ Search for experienced hiker who went missing near Gold River continues

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WatchLaurence Philippsen, 64, set out on a hiking expedition through a mountain range in Strathcona Provincial Park on June 29 and was expected to return on July 2 but never did.

Search and rescue crews are still looking for a man who went missing in the mountains near Gold River.

Laurence Philippsen, 65, set out on a hiking expedition through a mountain range that included Mount Filberg, Mount Cobb, Mount Haig-Brown, and Mount Laing in Strathcona Provincial Park on June 29 and was expected to return on July 2 but never did.

The 65-year-old’s vehicle was found on a logging road near Mount Filberg – where it was expected to be. A massive search and rescue effort then began on July 3 and has continued throughout the weekend and into Monday.

“He is a very, very well prepared hiker,” said search manager Paul Berry. “He had an inReach satellite communicator with him as well and it was his normal practice to use that communicator to check in with his wife on a daily basis, but it was never activated.”

Philippsen is a very experienced hiker, who had trekked through the area before. He was so experienced that Berry said despite Philippsen’s age, he would have no problem keeping up with hikers much younger than him.

“[He is] 65 but able to hike with the best of the 25-year-olds,” explained Berry.

On this journey, Philippsen’s goal was to traverse several mountains before reaching the summit of the 1,948-metre high Mount Haig-Brown; something he’d never done before. There are no trails and only a handful of people do it every year.

It’s unknown if he ran into some kind of trouble on day one.

“Out closer to his objective did not show any sign of travel and so right now the focus of the search is around Mount Filberg which is where his intended first night was,” said Berry.

RELATED: Rescue crews searching for experienced hiker that went missing in mountains near Gold River

Multiple agencies and SARs have been involved in the hunt for Philippsen including the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue and Campbell River Volunteer Search and Rescue. The Nootka Sound RCMP, as well as RCMP Air Services Section, RCMP Police Dog Services have also assisted in the search.

Searchers and other people familiar with the specific area say the terrain can be especially challenging and dangerous.

“It’s really, really difficult and certainly lots of groups have turned around in that area,” said Jamie Boulding, owner of the nearby Strathcona Park Lodge. “You know for a solo hiker out in such a big area, out for multiple days it’s a massive undertaking for search and rescue to try and find this gentleman.”

“Very, very dangerous terrain,” added Berry. “Even the searchers were saying that much of the time they were as focussed on their own safety and their own footfall as they were on actively searching at the same time.”

Despite repeated search and rescue efforts, Philippsen remains missing and now the Nootka Sound RCMP are asking the public for any information that could help assist them in locating him. Searchers, meanwhile, are plotting their next move for tomorrow.

Philippsen is described as a five-foot-six tall Caucasian male weighing approximately 160 pounds. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt, blue fleece sweater, beige hiking pants, and a large beige hiking pack and had a red tent. The 64-year-0ld also wears glasses and has a large scar on his back from a previous surgery, the release said.

Anyone with information about Philippsen’s location or anyone who may have had conversations with him or knows someone who may have had conversations with him regarding his hiking trip is asked to contact the Nootka Sound RCMP 250-283-2227.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz
Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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