Over the last few days the North Shore mountains have received a considerable amount of snow. Much of the more recent snow is sitting on a crust (a sliding surface), and it has Avalanche Professionals from the local mountains and North Shore Rescue very concerned for public safety. Avalanche Canada has put out the alert on all slopes, with avalanches of a large size being VERY LIKELY today:
What does this mean for you? It means that even if you are trained, traveling with similarly trained friends, and prepared with a transceiver, probe and shovel, you are at significant risk in the back-country. Please stay in-bounds, or stay at home.
In 1999, similar conditions led to a fatality, serious injuries, and an extensive rescue operation on the Grouse Grind, as a result of a class 2 avalanche on the upper half of the trail! Metro Vancouver has closed the Grind for the winter season, and with the avalanche conditions as high as they are today, hikers who ignore this closure are putting themselves in serious danger (not to mention rescue personnel). While Grouse Mountain has also closed their snowshoe trails due to the heightened avalanche risk, the conditions in-bounds remain safe with lots of snow to satiate any skiing or boarding needs for the day!
Other popular routes which pose a higher than average risk include nearly the entirety of the Howe Sound Crest Trail on Cypress, and the Strachan Meadows area below Saint Marks. These areas are exposed to significant avalanche paths, and the trail moves through dangerous terrain features which vastly increase the risk from even small slides. These are only examples, and the warning should be heeded for the back-country generally.
Remember, that even a small avalanche can be fatal on the North Shore. Furthermore, if the risks are too high, SAR crews may not be able to reach you in time.
The heavy loading is going to continue to make things very scary for the remainder of the day. Today is not the day to test your luck. Please keep checking the Avalanche Canada website, and the weather forecast before you head out next.
Update – 17:35 Sunday December 11, 2016
Conditions remain extremely hazardous on the North Shore. Currently, two out-of-bounds skiers are trapped in Tony Baker Gulley, and rescue crews are unable to access them due to high avalanche risk. NSR crews will wait until morning to attempt a rescue with helicopter support.
These conditions will continue into the day tomorrow. Per the Avalanche Canada South Coast forecast: