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Mountain conditions risky, North Shore Rescue warns after first winter call-outs

Calls for help always spike at this time of year when hikers are suprised by winter conditions, North Shore Rescue is warning
Winter conditions have set in on the mountains of North Vancouver and West Vancouver, North Shore Rescue warns. | North Shore Rescue

Temperatures are going down in the North Shore Mountains and the risks are going up.

That’s the message from North Shore Rescue this week after the first two call-outs in winter conditions.

The team received a request for help from North Vancouver RCMP Wednesday night after a man reported his brother lost in the mountains. The rescue subject had texted his brother to say that he was somewhere on either Grouse Mountain or Mount Fromme, that it was dark and snowy, but he thought he might be able to make it to a service road via a creek bed.

“The location of this fella was unknown. We weren’t able to get any co-ordinates. His phone battery was dead, most likely,” said Dave Barnett, search manager. “The search area was massive. It could have taken days for us to find this guy if he was not able to move.”

Barnett made an educated guess and sent a ground team up to the top of Mountain Highway, where a North Vancouver RCMP member was already on the scene. After about 30 minutes, the hiker, who was visiting from Winnipeg, made it to the end of the road where the officer confirmed he was the missing man.

“He managed to walk out safe, but he was really fortunate. He was not prepared at all,” Barnett said. “He didn’t have any light. His clothing was not adequate to spend the night out there. Of course, following a creek bed is a good way to get severely hypothermic or suffer a fatal fall somewhere. So this guy was really lucky.”

The team was up again before sunrise on Thursday after the RCMP alerted them to an overnight camper who became ill on Mount Seymour’s Pump Peak.

Barnett said the man was well equipped for his trip but he woke up severely dehydrated with a major headache and muscle cramps.

“He was barely able to get out of the tent, let alone hike down,” he said. “I think he just overdid it and just succumbed to the exhaustion.”

A couple other hikers came by him in the morning and offered assistance while they waited for North Shore Rescue’s ground team to arrive and help him down to their base.

Requests for rescues tend to spike this time of year as winter conditions make the trails much riskier.

Going out onto the mountain trails now requires proper footwear including microspikes, warm clothing and, more than ever, it’s important to leave a trip plan letting someone else know where you’re going and when you’re due back, Barnett said.

Barnett said he’s expecting a flurry of calls for trail runners who go out for a run, only to slip and fall and then suffer hypothermia while they wait for rescuers to hike in after them.

“This happens every year about this time. The temperature and the lack of daylight surprise people,” he said. “The message is winter is here on the North Shore mountains. It’s cold. There were sub-freezing temperatures out there last night. There’s snow, and there’s ice and it’s very slippery.”

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