No stove, no tent and no hope -- that's the state rescuers found a Calgary man in when they plucked him from an icefield in Banff National Park. Spending a harrowing week lost deep in the remote wilds could have meant death for the man -- if not for a group of committed rescuers who found George Knowles, cold, exhausted and suffering from mild hypothermia, but otherwise uninjured on the edge of the Bonnet Icefield, about 18 km east of Lake Louise, around 9:15 a.m. yesterday.
"He said that he had given up, actually ... he'd lost hope that he was going to survive," said lead rescuer Marc Ledwidge.
The experienced 47-year-old backcountry hiker and his three dogs set out Aug. 21 on a 12-day, 150-km loop near Lake Louise.
"He hadn't had a stove for over a week, so he hadn't had anything hot to eat or drink for over a week," Ledwidge said, adding the hiker had to ration food that he had left, including dried fruit.
When he didn't finish his trip Wednesday as expected, and one of his dogs showed up, park wardens began searching. The second of three dogs appeared at the same cabin Friday.
By Saturday, there were 15 wardens, two park search dogs, one RCMP search dog and a rescue helicopter searching an 850-km area looking for Knowles and the remaining dog.
Thanks to clearing weather yesterday morning, rescuers spotted Knowles from the helicopter, waving to them -- his Burmese mountain dog at his side -- from the edge of the icefield. He was treated in hospital for mild hypothermia and frostbite.