Officials say a tragedy was avoided this weekend when three teenagers stranded on top of a mountain near Maple Ridge were brought to safety in a dramatic rescue.

The three boys, all relatives aged 14 to 19, set out on a hike in Golden Ears Provincial Park on Saturday. After a seven-hour trek from a spring-like base to a snow-covered peak, the group found themselves stranded on top of Alouette Mountain as night was falling.

"I think they thought they were going to go for a nice day hike, not anticipating the conditions at the top of the mountain," said Rick Liang with Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue.

At the top, temperatures hovered around negative 4 to negative 6 degrees. The boys also found themselves in about a metre of snow.

By the time they were finally airlifted to safety, the teens had been stranded for over 12 hours. Their only saving grace was an emergency locator beacon to call for help.

"If that message hadn't had gotten out, given their condition, they would have probably become more hypothermic," Liang said.

Like many other popular trails in the Lower Mainland in February, the starting point of the hike could have been deceptive. While the base of the mountain was dry, warm and even spring-like, higher elevations were decidedly wintry.

According to others hiking the trail that day, it can be challenging even for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.

"Where we live you have to be prepared for all kinds of circumstances," said Vanessa Kalashikoe. "And if you don't have a plan you're … running into some problems."

Another hiker, Jack Emberly, warned the unprepared to stay away from higher elevations.

"And then you're stuck up there hoping that somebody shows up," he said. "It causes all sorts of trouble for the people who have to go and try to find them."

Officials are once again reminding hikers to be prepared when venturing into the elements. Thankfully, the three teens' expedition ended in their safe return.

"You don't like to speculate, but it may not have had as happy an ending," Liang said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Sarah MacDonald