It’s all about the pictures when you’re hiking Pincushion….yes or no?
You know the pose – person in the foreground with that vista behind. And you have to get the Canadian flag in there too, of course. There’s a local hiking group on Facebook that I follow. Pincushion is the place to be – and it looks like more new explorers are checking it off their pandemic-era hiking list. Yes, the photos are enough to entice people of all ages and abilities – but not everyone is making it back down the way they’re…picturing.
“We’ve had a definite increase in rescues up on Pincushion…and we’ll be going to Pincushion I figure, probably at least once a month now for the rest of the year, if not more,” says Duane Tresnich. He’s a search manager for COSAR – Central Okanagan Search and Rescue. Their crew, along with other search and rescue experts from Penticton and Oliver / Osoyoos, were joined by West Kelowna and Peachland firefighters Monday night. It was a six-hour job rescuing a pair of 20-something men off a ledge below the flag pole. After reaching the flag at the top, they decided to take a shortcut – down that side of the mountain. According to the press release sent out by COSAR, one of the men fell several meters, hitting his head, while the other became stuck on a ledge, where he called for help around 6 p.m.. It was a high-angle rescue that involved 50 trained personnel and fortunately, only resulted in relatively minor injuries. The whole thing wrapped up around 12:30 a.m.
Peachland Fire Chief Dennis Craig said his crew provided manpower and support getting the rescue gear up and back down the mountainside.
“This was a very, very technical rescue,” he said, adding something many of us are thinking:
“I’m not sure what these individuals were doing, deciding to take what looked like a shortcut down the face of the mountain.”
Tresnich agrees people are going up Pincushion unprepared and sometimes, unwilling to follow the trail (however undefined that is in some spots). He gets that people are tired of being in a bubble and want to get away. It means more people are out there – people with different levels of hiking ability. (As an aside, Tresnich wants to give kudos to the Peachland Fire and Rescue Service – great people to work with & well-trained, he says.)
“It’s a good hike, it’s a short hike – for most people it’s 25 to 30 minutes to the top,” he says.
“But anything can happen. Kind of like what happened last night.”
Scaling down the wrong side of the mountain is one thing, but stealing stuff is another and Peachlander Greg Byrnes attributes both to the extra interest and activity this past year on Pincushion. It was great talking to Greg again – a couple years ago, when I worked at the Peachland View, I wrote about his family’s connection to the mountain and to our town. Normally I wouldn’t link to the local paper, but it was one of my favourite things I wrote there and gives you some background on his story (The Best of Peachland is on Pincushion Mountain).
Anyway, Greg and his family noticed the flag was missing earlier this Spring. Over the Easter weekend, they went up to investigate (the flag usually needs to be replaced because of winter /windy weather and they’re assuming it blew away). But they also noticed the flagpole was damaged.
“I went up there last year and some guy said he was just hanging off the flag pole. I kind of gave him the hairy eyeball – it’s not meant to be hung from. But yeah, I think what’s going on in part, is a lot of people wanting the picture on Instagram.”
Aside from the damaged flag pole, the Byrnes noticed at Easter the notebook people use to sign their names was gone – and here’s a punch in the gut: The plaque that was placed at the top as a memorial to Greg’s dad Murray, was missing.
“It’s brass and guess what – brass is worth a lot of money now, so we went back to the original place where we got the plaque done and the guy said it was probably worth $500 right now. So somebody took everything,” Greg said.
Kind of sad to think that instead of enjoying the scenery up there, someone decided it was more fun to put time and effort into stealing a plaque that was an obvious tribute to someone special. The pandemic brings out something in everyone, doesn’t it?
This is what Greg and his wife Stacey decided to do: A new plaque has been ordered (in stainless steel this time), and as you’ve probably seen, a couple weeks ago they managed to fix the flagpole (yes, they walked it up there!) and placed a bright new Canadian flag. They’re also hoping to touch base with a local group that does trail maintenance – maybe someone is willing to fix the stairs at the bottom, for example?
“It’s a special place we go to reconnect with my dad,” says Greg
“And it is a pretty spectacular place up there, with the views and hey, we’re lucky to live in Peachland and we’re lucky to have this natural bounty that we get to enjoy. There’s nothing like getting up there and getting the view.”
Hmm maybe when I go up there next, I’ll resist the urge to take out my phone for pictures – and just be there and enjoy 🙂