The first rescue in the North Shore Mountains of 2022 comes with a stern warning about avalanche risk.
North Shore Rescue members carried out a backcountry skier in his 30s Monday after he was caught in an avalanche.
The incident happened on the southwest side of Hollyburn Mountain, just after 10 a.m. The man and a friend had hiked to the top, hoping to take advantage of fresh powder, but the Avalanche Canada forecast showed high risk of avalanches at all elevations for the South Coast at the time, said Don Jardine, search manager.
“One of them set off a small avalanche and was taken up in it. He was partially buried and broke his leg,” he said.
The man’s friend helped pull him out and other backcountry skiers came and called 911.
Because of the location and injury, Jardine said they’d hoped to quickly get the man out via helicopter but the mountains became socked in with clouds, making air access impossible.
Three teams of North Shore Rescue volunteers came on foot and ski to stabilize the subject, get him packaged and stretcher him out.
Anyone headed into uncontrolled portions of the mountains needs to first check Avalanche Canada, which updates their hazard ratings every day based on weather and the condition of the snowpack, Jardine said.
Jardine also recommended consulting with AdventureSmart and BC Parks when looking for safe ways to enjoy the backcountry.
If you are going into areas where avalanches can happen, you need to be carrying an avalanche transceiver and probes, Jardine said, and never travel alone.
“If you get buried, all that gear isn’t going to do any good if there's nobody there to take you out,” he said.
If the combination of the avalanche risk and the terrain are hazardous enough, search and rescue volunteers won’t be allowed in, he added.
Jardine said there is a lot of snow in the forecast for the North Shore Mountains in the next week but it will all settle on a crust of ice that formed before Christmas.
“It’s perfect for avalanches,” Jardine said. “It's going to be touchy for the next few days, and people that wander into terrain that's dangerous are going to get into trouble.”