Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for Metro Vancouver, with the most significant rainfall occurring on the North Shore. This along with forecasted heavy winds means we are in for a wet and blustery couple days. What does this mean for hikers and other trail users? It means that creeks are going to be flowing higher than usual, there may be potential tree blowdown obscuring/blocking trails, trails will be more slippery, and visibility may be significantly reduced. Additionally, there may be risk of trail instability on steeper slopes creating a rockfall / slide hazard.
If you are still planning to head out for a hike, make sure you have researched the route thoroughly and take note of any creek crossings. Creek crossings can become extremely hazardous, if not impossible to cross, during periods of heavy rain. Even a small creek can swell to a much larger one. North Shore Rescue has responded to many calls where individuals were unable to return from their hikes because the creek levels rose in the period it took the hikers to turn around.
A poignant example occurred a number of years ago at Elsay Lake on Mount Seymour. Two hikers were forced to take shelter in the emergency huts loft after becoming stranded. These hikers set out, with rain in the forecast, and crossed numerous small and innocuous streams to reach the lake and set up camp. The rain started, the lake flooded, and the streams swelled in a very short period of time. In this interval it was too late for the hikers to make their own way out, as the trail was blocked by raging rivers where there were once streams. The lake rose so high, that it flooded the main floor of the emergency hut. A helicopter rescue was the only way to get them out safely. Don’t let this be you.
Regardless of the weather conditions, make sure you have left a detailed trip plan with someone responsible, and carry the 10 Essentials. Preparation includes proper footwear with a good tread and ankle support, rain gear, and a change of warm clothes. Do not get caught unprepared.