2016 is upon us, and with it, a boatload of new snow on the local mountains. The picturesque snowcapped peaks, literally a million dollar view, lures locals and visitors alike to the North Shore. From literally anywhere in Metro Vancouver, those enticed by the allure of the mountains can get there with only a short drive, a slightly longer bus ride, or even on a bicycle.
One can sit in the comfort of their hotel room, home, or apartment, and ponder their activity or route, as they look upon the very mountain they plan to conquer. Then, with the payment of a bus fare, it is possible to move from the relative safety of the concrete jungle to rugged mountain valleys and cliffs in no time at all.
This transition comes with a drastic change in consequences when something goes wrong. No longer can one call 911 on their cellphone and expect an ambulance at their side in a matter of minutes. In fact, sometimes one might be lucky to get a cell signal at all! Even a simple injury, like a sprained ankle on a cold day, can become rapidly fatal once away from the comforts of the city.
Recognizing this, it is my intention to highlight the 10 fastest ways to get yourself killed this winter on the local mountains. I do not encourage anyone to challenge me on these points, as you will quickly find that these points come from hard learned lessons of those before you. So what are the ten fastest ways to get yourself killed? In no particular order, they are:
- Do not tell anyone where you are going or when to expect you back – if we don’t know you are lost, or where to look, it is likely we will not find you (or even start looking for you).
- Travel by yourself – It is far easier for something to go wrong if there is no one there to call for help or to provide emergency assistance while SAR is enroute. Who needs a pesky companion to watch their back!
- Do not stay in bounds or on established trails – If you were looking to get yourself into trouble, why would you stay in areas that are controlled for avalanches and have ski patrollers dedicated to keeping you safe? Similarly, why not head off the beaten path into terrain that has claimed so many lives?
- If you get lost, just keep going and going and going … – Needle in a haystack anyone? Now picture that haystack being a mountain, and that needle still being a needle, only a moving one. Definitely a great way to not get found. Similarly, if you keep heading downhill you will likely encounter steeper terrain and slippery waterfalls. This is definitely a sure fire way to slip and fall to your death.
- Do not plan your route or check the Avalanche.ca Forecast – This one should be pretty obvious if you are trying to get yourself killed. Why would you want to know the conditions and plan your route accordingly, when you can just run head long into complex terrain and get buried in an avalanche?
- Do not carry a avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel – If you want to seal the deal when you get buried by an avalanche – provided you have ignored point 2 – it is likely that you don’t want your companions to have the tools they need to rescue you. In the odd chance you are still alive when SAR arrives, not having a transceiver will pretty much guarantee that they don’t find you before the air runs out.
- Do not wear clothing and footwear appropriate for the environment – There is no faster way to freeze to death than by wearing cotton clothing, denim, and rain boots. If you want to chance survival, yoga clothes may go either way. You definitely don’t want a change of warm wool clothing available in the event you get wet either.
- Do not pay attention to sunset time and definitely do not carry a light – It’s way easier to lose the trail, get lost, and freeze when you can’t see where you are going.
- Do not carry the 10 essentials, ever – If you are looking to get killed, you definitely don’t want to be well hydrated or have the basic survival tools necessary to survive until SAR arrives. Why have the ability to make a fire or build a shelter if you plan to freeze?
- Never turn around or alter plans when conditions change – If the weather changes for the worse, or you start to notice signs of increasing avalanche risk (radiating cracks, wumpfing, observable slides), you may as well keep going. Not going to die by turning back right?
Now this may sound harsh, and I do apologize for that, but in reality if you follow this list, you are very likely not going to come back from your adventure. We encourage individuals to do exactly the opposite of what this list proposed, and to understand that although this list may seem absurd, some of or all of these mistakes happen in pretty much every call we respond to.
We advocate that anyone heading up to the mountains read our education page in detail and take a visit to Mountain Equipment Co-Op to get decked out for their adventure. The staff at MEC are very knowledgeable and can assist you in preparing for your outdoor adventure. You can also check out Adventure Smart for even more details on staying safe during your outdoor adventure.
This post is meant to alert members of the public to the hazards of not following best practices when heading into the mountains. It does not advocate for reckless or negligent behaviour. We encourage everyone to check out our education section to help avoid falling prey to the 10 points made in this post.
It is important to remember that ducking a rope line on the North Shore almost always means you are heading into steep, slippery, uncontrolled terrain, which often ends in a really big waterfall. As a out-of-bounds boarder or skier continues down into ever steeper terrain, it becomes more and more difficult to climb out. Eventually the intrepid adventurer is stuck above a waterfall or cliff. Continuing downhill on the North Shore usually means death or serious injury. This classic mistake has been made far too many times by people far more skilled than you.
Also, remember that you are out-of-bounds any time you are not properly prepared, trained and equipped for your adventure, not just when you duck a rope line. Your life is worth far more than purchasing the right gear and gaining the experience safely. Don’t throw it away needlessly.