North Shore Rescue crews managed to save two young snowboarders Friday night after the pair found themselves stuck in precarious terrain near Mount Seymour.
According to a Facebook post shared by the search and rescue organization, crews initially responded to a call from a snowshoer who said he had heard two people calling out for help while passing by the Suicide Gully area Friday evening.
Rescuers were deployed to the ski resort and had already headed out into the backcountry to locate the individuals calling for help when they learned that two 16-year-old males who had been snowboarding at Mt. Seymour were reported missing by one of their fathers.
Field teams made their way to the Suicide Gully area, "however due to avalanche danger were only able to get within 400 [metres] of the two boys," read NSR's post. "NSR members were able to guide them to their location, however travel was very difficult due to the deep snow."
Once the boys and rescuers finally met up, NSR members equipped the pair with snowshoes, avalanche beacons, and head lamps. The group then snowshoed to safety "via a route with less avalanche danger," according to the post.
It was the local search and rescue organization's second call of the day. Earlier Friday afternoon, members carried an injured backcountry skier out of the Hollyburn area via stretcher and transferred the individual to the care of BC Emergency Health Services.
Avalanche warning issued for B.C.'s South Coast, North Shore mountains
The day before, Avalanche Canada issued a special public avalanche warning for the South Coast Region that remains in effect through the weekend. According to Avalanche Canada, colder-than-usual temperatures are to blame for creating a "dangerous," "highly unusual" weak layer in the region's snowpack, especially in the North Shore mountains.
“This weak layer is widespread and relatively easy for a person to trigger,” explains Avalanche Canada forecaster Kate Devine in the warning. “There have already been a number of close calls and the snowfall predicted for the coming weekend will bury this layer even deeper. This added snow load will increase the depth and size of the avalanche, which could be deadly for anyone who is caught.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, NSR crews also responded to a call about a snowboarder who had ducked the ropes at Cypress Mountain, going out of bounds by himself off Strachan in the Mittens Couloir area.
The man had been partially buried up to his waist by a small avalanche, and was injured after hitting a tree. He was ultimately taken to Lions Gate Hospital in critical condition following a challenging but successful rescue.
"There is a difference between backcountry skiing/snowboarding — done while carrying all appropriate gear, including avalanche beacon/probe/shovel, with appropriate training (AST1 or more), only after a careful assessment of the avalanche.ca forecast and local conditions, and with knowledgeable partners with similar gear and experience — and ducking the boundary rope at a ski hill," NSR explained in a mission debrief posted to Facebook following the aforementioned rescue.
"In this case, the individual ducked the rope - solo - and did not have any of the appropriate gear. Basically all of the terrain outside of the controlled terrain of our local ski hills leads *away* from the chairlifts and into dangerous terrain, from which the only way out is 'up.'"
If you find yourself lost or injured in the backcountry, "your first and only call should be to 911," the post added.
Search and rescue crews remind anyone recreating in local backcountry areas to practice the "Three Ts":
- Have adequate training—"[H]ave the adequate training and skills for your objective."
- Leave a trip plan—"[W]ill anyone know you are missing, know where you are, and be able to raise the alarm if you do not return?"
- Take the essentials