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'Slackline' on North Shore mountain prompts warning from SAR

Last Updated Apr 16, 2021 at 8:38 am PDT

North Shore Rescue is urging people not to string up slacklines in areas where helicopters fly, saying they pose a real risk. (Courtesy Facebook/North Shore Rescue)

North Shore Rescue says slacklines can be dangerous for crews in helicopters

Some people coming to defence of slackliners on Strachan Mountain, saying they likely had no idea of risks to SAR

'Slackline' image shared by North Shore Rescue shows line strung across Strachan Mountain

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Alarm bells are sounding after someone set up what appears to be a “slackline” on Strachan Mountain along the North Shore.

An image shared by North Shore Rescue shows what looks like a line between two slopes across a gully or valley, with a slight silhouette of what could be a person walking across.

In a terse Facebook post, NSR writes what this person has done is “EXTREMELY dangerous,” and has potentially fatal consequences.

“…[It] could kill our members flying in the area. We and the RCMP also fly at night – there is zero chance of seeing one of these lines at night,” NSR writes.

“[Thursday] was a prime example. We were out in the Seymour Valley doing some helicopter training. On bright, sunny days, if you’re flying into the sun, you just will not see that slackline in the air. That can take an aircraft down,” NSR team lead Mike Danks told NEWS 1130 Friday.

He says it’s hard to chase down the people who put slacklines up.

“It’s really concerning for us,” he said, noting NSR has passed this on to BC Parks, which is expected to follow up on the matter.

The post has attracted dozens of comments, many calling the highliners irresponsible.

“Again, a great example of poor judgement and a me first attitude. No forethought what so ever,” one person writes, with others expressing their surprise.

We were just notified that it appears someone has set up a slack line on Strachan. This is EXTREMELY dangerous and could…

Posted by North Shore Rescue on Thursday, April 15, 2021

Some, however, say it’s likely the people behind the line had no idea.

“I’m sure they’ll learn from this if they see this post,” says one person.

“It’s a little disappointing to me that North Shore Rescue has chosen to vilify this so readily,” posts another. “Highlining is an incredible sport that occupies its own rightful place in the backcountry, and it is EASILY possible for athletes to work with the proper agencies in aviation to avoid user conflicts. There are examples of a collaborative approach to this working successfully in the past. Diplomacy and education on proper process would be better than being entirely closed off to something. This CAN be done safely if all stakeholders are properly regarded.”

Slacklining — or highlining — is a popular backcountry sport. This instance has proven to be a good reminder of the dangers it can cause to others.

North Shore Rescue is asking people to “not set up these lines in areas where helicopters fly, especially in busy areas such as the North Shore.”

Danks says his team is thankful to hikers and others in the backcountry who report slacklines, noting SAR is “always on the back end of this.”

“They understand the risk that it poses to aircraft. So it is an ongoing challenge,” he explained.

NSR has not had an incident with a slackline to date, but Danks says any interaction between one and a helicopter would “be very bad.”

“If you do see those, please contact North Shore Rescue, and NAV CAN also is going to be very interested to know about that because it’s a hazard for all aircrafts in the area.”

It’s unclear if the line has been removed or who set it up.