The recent death of a 21-year-old Instagram influencer and a surge in rescues in the North Shore have sparked concerns about unequipped hikers tackling B.C.’s tumultuous mountain terrain.
North Shore Rescue search manager Doug Pope said during the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists and locals have taken to the outdoors instead of travelling out of province.
“They’re buying snowshoes and trying to go for a hike in the mountains,” Pope explained.
Such a plan comes with its dangers though: “Right now, the North Shore mountains are very hard and icy. There are a lot of dangers.”
It’s something the world witnessed with news of the SAR team’s recovery of Nikki Donnelly’s body on a trail near Cypress Mountain last Friday.
The Instagram influencer was snowshoeing a popular hiking trail, leading up to St. Mark’s summit.
“A lot of people don’t realize that after the first kilometre of trail, you’re crossing through all avalanche pass,” Pope stressed, “which can be deadly.”
As well, fresh snow makes the trail harder to follow, he added. Which seemed to be the case with Donnelly, who called her boyfriend on Jan. 15, alerting him that she was lost.
Mishaps, including being unprepared for the weather conditions, have resulted in a significant influx of calls to the North Shore Rescue team – with 151 recorded in 2019.
In the previous year, the team saw only 144 calls for help made. The total number of calls for 2020 has not yet been totalled.
“People who go beyond the ski resort areas at places and mountains including Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress, are in areas without cell phone reception,” Pope warned.
Satellite beacons to call for help, proper hiking shoes with spikes, clamp-ons, and even an ice axe can be essential tools during North Shore treks in the winter.
“Knowing when to turn around in those situations is also an important thing to think about,” Pope said.
“Follow your own footsteps back if you think you’ve gotten off-course.”
On Tuesday (Jan. 19), the North Shore Rescue team extracted a Vancouver couple who called 911 after slipping on a portion of Tim Jones Peak on their way to the top of Mount Seymour.
Pope said the traverse has caused significant injuries to people who have fallen, including broken legs, a broken neck and other head injuries.
Luckily, the couple was rescued without serious harm.
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