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Avalanche terrain extremely dangerous right now, North Shore Rescue warns

After rescuing two people from out-of-bounds areas in one day, North Shore Rescue says this is not the time to be ducking the rope
North Shore Rescue's long line team prepares to lift out a patient from the West Vancouver backcountry, Thursday, March 2. Later that day they conducted a risky ground rescue from the other side of Cypress Mountain. | North Shore Rescue

Going out of bounds from any of the local ski resorts is always a bad idea, but high avalanche risk is making it especially dangerous right now. That’s the message from North Shore Rescue after pulling two people out of avalanche terrain outside Cypress Mountain in one day.

The team rescued a backcountry skier with a broken femur after he was caught in a slide in the trees on the east side of the Howe Sound Crest Trail on Thursday afternoon.

The volunteers were back, however, around 6 p.m. after a snowboarder opted to duck the resort boundary rope and become stuck in Montizambert Gully, one of the worst areas for fatal avalanches and out-of-bounds deaths in the North Shore Mountains.

Search manager Doug Pope said they received word of the 31-year-old New Westminster woman after a friend reported her missing to the ski patrol.

By that time of the evening, it was too dark to use a helicopter to get her out, meaning they had to carry out a risky ground rescue.

“There is still a lot of concern about the avalanche conditions right now. Obviously, we’re seeing it all over the province, where very experienced people are getting caught and/or are killed in avalanches,” Pope said. “We have a similar weak persistent layer that’s buried about 100 centimeters down right now, so you can imagine the size of avalanche it could let loose.”

Two teams led by North Shore Rescue’s avalanche forecaster skied down to the woman, got her into snowshoes and hiked her back up to the trail.

Pope said the woman stayed cool and collected during the rescue, and was thankful for the help.

“And she was also very sorry about making bad decisions,” Pope added. “She was quite surprised that the level of response we had and how involved it was and she was very sorry for putting our teammates in danger as well.”

As always, North Shore Rescue advises against going out of bounds at any of the North Shore resorts as the areas outside tend to be steep gullies entering into drainages with cliffs and avalanche terrain.

Anyone going into the mountains for snowshoeing or backcountry skiing needs to be extra cautious right now and stick to simple terrain, he added.

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