Fraser Macmillan was airlifted out of Nepal along with 53 other Canadians and dozens of evacuees of assorted nationalities, fleeing a nation devastated by an earthquake where food, shelter and water are in short supply.
But Mr. Macmillan's decision to get on the Canadian Forces' CF-17 on Wednesday night was not easy, because he was leaving his parents behind.
Kathy and Bruce Macmillan, a retired nurse and a retired forester, set out to hike the spectacular Langtang Trail north of Kathmandu a week ago and have not been seen since a day and a half before the disaster struck last Saturday.
Social-media sites suggest that the couple from St. Albert, Alta. are the only Canadians who are still missing from the Langtang Valley, where avalanches, triggered by the quake, levelled villages, blocked transportation routes and wiped out lines of communication.
Mr. Macmillan, 28, had been waiting for his parents to return to Kathmandu so they could hike together, along with his older brother, Jay, who was flying in from India. Instead, he spent frantic days searching for news that they survived, and helping his extended family piece together a database of information about hikers and others who were trapped in the region.
He was able to provide that information to the members of the advance party for Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) when they arrived in Nepal on Wednesday morning, as well as to the Canadian Medical Assistance Team (CMAT), a volunteer disaster-relief group.
Mr. Macmillan's departure to India "was a very difficult decision," said his aunt, Louise Bentley, "and we, the family, discussed it a great deal, especially once the rescue teams got there, because Fraser was an essential piece of information for those rescue teams."
Ms. Bentley, who is the sister of Bruce Macmillan, said the family was able to provide the Canadians with maps and GPS co-ordinates of people who need to be rescued. "So, for them, this was a gold mine of information and we knew we were making a difference with Fraser there," she said.
On the other hand, said Ms. Bentley, the Canadian government could not tell them if there would be a second evacuation plane. "Things in Kathmandu are deteriorating," she said. "We know that it is a very pressured situation at the airport for people getting in and out. And we just felt we should take this opportunity [for Fraser to leave] when we had it."
While Ms. Bentley said she is hopeful that Canadian rescue workers will soon start searching the Langtang Valley, some family members are frustrated at the amount of time it is taking for the federal government to act. The DART advance team had not yet determined Wednesday what sort of response the Nepalese need from Canada.
Reg Smith, Kathy Macmillan's brother, said the Israelis have set up a field hospital and the CMAT is already working in Nepal with 25 volunteers – many of them medical professionals – who paid their own way.
But the Canadian Foreign Affairs department "takes the information down and then you never hear from them again," said Mr. Smith. When it comes to getting word about missing loved ones, he said, "Google and social media is 10 times better than anything the government could ever be."
Ms. Bentley said she and the rest of the family will continue working around the clock to find out what happened to her brother and his wife.
"These are extremely experienced hikers. They are fit, healthy. They know their way around the outdoors probably as well as anybody you know," she said.
But it is becoming more difficult to remain optimistic. Days ago, the family members were suggesting the couple might be putting their practical skills to use, helping other people who are stranded.
"We certainly have held on to that hope. I think …" said Ms. Bentley, pausing to collect her emotions. "Let's leave it there."