It took search rescue crews close to five hours to retrieve a critically injured hang glider who crashed into the side of a mountain in B.C.'s Gulf Islands Thursday.

The Cowichan Valley man was hang gliding on Mount Maxwell on Salt Spring Island, northeast of Victoria, around 4:30 p.m. when strong winds threw him against a jagged cliff face on one of the rock's highest peaks.

North Shore Search and Rescue Team members arrived on the scene quickly but called for help because they couldn't reach the man quickly enough.

Ground crews had to hike to the victim and then use a long line to secure him to a helicopter and lift him to safety around 9 p.m.

The victim, believed to be in his 50s or 60s, was rushed to an air ambulance and flown to hospital.

Team leader Tim Jones believes the air rescue saved the man because he would not have survived a land evacuation.

His current condition is unknown.

With files from The Canadian Press