Last night at 19:00 North Shore Rescue was notified by Cypress Ski Patrol of a possible out-of-bounds snowboarder. Shortly after the notification by Cypress, the team was activated by the West Vancouver Police. Upon investigation by NSR SAR manager, Doug Pope, it was determined that the snowboarder had descended into the Montizambert drainage where he became lost and stranded.
The subject followed two other tracks, which he subsequently lost and failed to return to the ski area due to chest deep snow and HEINOUS terrain. Upon becoming lost, the subject made contact with friends and gave them a GPS coordinate from his cell phone. The friends then contacted Cypress Resorts to have them contact police and NSR. To the subjects credit, he was carrying a whistle, which was essential for locating him quickly.
Upon receiving the GPS coordinate, the SAR manager plotted it and determined that he was below the Howe Sound Crest trail near the Bowen Lookout. While an NSR avalanche professional was doing a risk assessment, Ski Patrol were directed to a safe area on the trail to attempt voice contact. The ski patrol were able to hear his whistle from the Bowen Lookout. With a avalanche report from CAC Forecaster, Peter Marshall, and our own avalanche technicians assessment in the field, it was determined that travel in terrain was at an acceptable risk.
Through teamwork, the subject was found and rescued in a relatively short period of time. The patrollers coaxing the subject upward, NSR field teams moving into the area to intercept, and cellphone contact with the SAR manager made for a textbook rescue. A textbook rescue in some pretty ugly terrain.
This subject made a few critical errors: (1) he ducked the rope and went out of bounds, (2) he wandered for 3 hours after becoming lost, (3) and he called his friends instead of 911 (in fact his battery was nearly dead by the time SAR was involved – the Cypress patroller who talked with the subject luckily had him conserve battery power while NSR was being activated)
If you are not far from the resort, the ONLY feasible way to self-rescue is to stop, take off your equipment, and follow your tracks back UP. However, if you find yourself lost, stranded or injured, STAY PUT, remember that their is no charge for rescue and call 911 immediately. While he called his friends and told them of his predicament, this wasted precious time and battery life. Some helpful information to relay to the emergency dispatcher:
- # of people in your group
- GPS Coordinate (Learn how to do this with your smartphone)
- Approximate Location (eg. I was skiing on Cypress, I went down the top gun ski run and went right about halfway down the run)
- Approximate time traveled (eg. I left the ski hill at about 4pm and continued downhill for about 30 minutes)
- Any landmarks (ie. I can see the ocean, I am above a waterfall, The cloud ceiling is above me, etc.)
- What type of equipment you are using (skis, snowboard, snowshoes, etc.)
Now, with the fresh snowfall and increased avalanche risk across the province, is a good time to have a conversation with your child, spouse, significant other, sibling, etc about why it isn’t worth skiing/boarding out-of-bounds. A few hundred feet of “powder” is not worth the risk of ducking the rope. If you want to chase untouched pow outside the boundary there are ways to do it safely without going out-of-bounds. For instance, entering the backcountry through a designated access gate after having checked the avalanche forecast and carrying the right gear:
- The Ten Essentials
- Traveling with at least one other person
The rope line is there for a reason, ducking it is never ok. The ski patrol doesn’t put it up for aesthetics. Going out-of-bounds on the North Shore is especially deadly: gullies are steep and often end in waterfalls and with deep snow it is often impossible to get back to the resort.
Stock Photo (Montizambert Drainage)