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'Uninformed tourists' adding to North Shore Rescue workload

Last Updated Jun 21, 2018 at 7:20 am PDT

File photo: Search and Rescue helicopter. (Mike Lloyd, NEWS 1130 Photo)

LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS 1130) – It will be a long, hot summer for local search and rescue crews, if they are forced to keep up their current pace.

North Shore Rescue has already responded to 61 calls from hikers and other back country users in trouble this year.

“That is a record pace for us. A typical busy year for us is 90 calls but over the last three or four years, we are pushing 130. And at this current pace, we will exceed that this year,” says NSR Search Manager Doug Pope.

“Obviously, areas like the Grouse Grind and the BCMC Trail are popular and people get off-route there. The Mount Seymour area, as well. What’s interesting is that we are getting midweek calls and they are typically uninformed tourists,” he tells NEWS 1130, adding that can be a difficult pattern for his members.

“These midweek calls are especially taxing for our volunteer team because most of us have day jobs and not everyone can leave their job at the drop of a hat.”

Pope points out it could get worse soon, as Metro Vancouver opens up the back country to hikers, including spots like the Haines Valley.

“It’s quite a remote area and people can get into significant trouble there. There’s no cell signal at all and we have had fatalities in there. We expect it to be another busy year at that location as well.”

Pope says it is important for back country users to to their research ahead of a hike and pay attention to the current conditions.

“It’s not really worthwhile looking at a trip report from somebody who has posted it on the Internet last summer and there’s still snow on the trail — which we still have above 1,100 or 1,200 metres,” he explains.

That means having proper footwear — even micro spikes and poles — depending on where you are headed.

“If the trail is covered in snow, they are also at risk of losing the trail easily. Having adequate navigation tools in the back country is important. Just relying on your phone with Google Maps doesn’t cut it. We find a lot of people are looking at a big green area on their screen and saying we are somewhere in this green area. A GPS, a map and a compass [are needed],” Pope says.

“And if your phone dies or you can’t get a call out, who’s going to come looking for you? Telling a trusted friend or family member where you are going and when you expect to be back is important.”

Pope notes even experienced hikers should take it easy and not push beyond their ability early in the season.

“Don’t do something beyond your ability. Start slow. If you haven’t been hiking a lot this year, pick something a bit shorter and easier to start with so you’re not overdoing it,” he says.

“There are a lot of resources for planning hikes. AdventureSmart.ca is a really good resources along with our team website, NorthShoreRescue.com. There are links on both to find out what to bring, how to plan for a trip and how to make sure you’re not one of our next customers.”

– With files from Kayla Butler