It’s that time of year when various social media influencers, outdoor blogs, and other websites start to share spectacular pictures of remote waterfalls, rocky vistas overlooking the ocean, and mountain top sunsets snapped on our very own North Shore mountains. The enticement is strong to visit these amazing places, to re-create these spectacular pictures for your friends, and to experience the adventure of the mountains.
There is no argument from us that social media is an amazing tool to share experiences and to give people the courage to seek out their own adventures in our beautiful wilderness. Truly, there is nothing inherently wrong with influencing the public to get outside and enjoy what our province has to offer. It has a lot to offer!
That said, these Instagram posts and website articles, while very enticing, rarely speak to the planning and preparation needed to make your own outing a safe one. In fact, in many cases they may be extremely misleading regarding the level of difficulty, danger, and the amount of preparation required. It may simply be a social media post with a picture of a beautifully composed waterfall, a yoga posed individual in running shoes, and a comment about “finding yourself”. While the general location and a time estimate to complete the hike are often included, there is rarely anything substantive speaking to the hazards which may be encountered, or how to properly prepare for the trip.
The purpose of my own post today is not to discourage social media influencers and media, but to encourage them to include the basic information (or even a link to that information) in their content. For these purposes, I have included some text below which can be easily copy/pasted into a social media post or article:
Check out @northshorerescue for tips and information to make your own adventure a safe one! #BePrepared #TenEssentials #Preventable #SurviveOutside #SARPrevention
Check out @bc_adventuresmart for information and resources on how to stay safe in the wilderness! #BePrepared #TenEssentials #Preventable #SurviveOutside #SARPrevention
At the same time, if your or someone you know is considering visiting one of these spots – like Saint Marks Summit, Elsay Lake, Hanes Valley, Tim Jones Peak, Lynn Peak, Kennedy Falls, Norvan Falls, or any other outdoor destination – hopefully they will read this post and avoid some common mistakes.
What follows is a non-comprehensive list of mistakes that are sure fire ways to land yourself in a bucket of trouble on the local mountains:
1. Failing to research the hike
An extremely common error is making plans to do a hike, without doing any research or planning. In doing so, these individuals fail to take any steps to determine the length of the hike, the difficulty, the weather, the trail conditions, or what equipment is required. This is where things start to go wrong.
An example of poor research and preparation in practice:
14:00 – “Oh the trail has snow on it. My running shoes are getting wet. Oh well, who cares….my social media followers are waiting for my mountain top selfie!”
16:00″Oh, the trail forks! Is it a right or a left? Meh, lets let fate decide.”
18:00 “Oh wow, this is a lot steeper than I expected. Oh well, I better push through, there’s a sunset awaiting!…who cares if I don’t have a flashlight”
21:00 “Uh oh, my phone is out of batteries, I am cold and I have no idea where I am. I hope someone calls North Shore Rescue…”
At a minimum, you should:
- download (and print) or purchase a map of the trail/area;
- check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly (remember weather can change quickly in the mountains);
- check the sunset time and adjust your turn around time accordingly (in addition to bringing a flashlight with extra batteries!);
- check the trail conditions by (1) viewing the Parks Canada, BC Parks or Metro Vancouver website, (2) asking friends/family, (3) looking up the trail/peak/waterfall on your social media to see what others experienced, and/or (4) looking at trip reports on http://www.clubtread.com/;
- check out North Shore Rescue or Adventure Smart for tips on what to bring and how to prepare; and
- check out the following blog for links to many more resources and information to keep you safe: http://www.ashikaparsad.com/2016/12/trip-planning-links/
Doing this, will help you avoid becoming a statistic.
** Currently there is significant snow-pack on the mountains and as such, there is significant risk from sinkholes, cornices and avalanches. With spring conditions, the hazard is hard to predict. The best course of action is to avoid avalanche terrain and cornices completely until the snow pack has reduced. Furthermore, it is important to be aware of areas where the snow pack has been undercut by melt. It is possible to fall through into streams or rocky gulleys. Very dangerous. **
2. Failing to tell someone where you are going
This one is straight forward. If you fail to tell someone responsible where you are going and when to expect you back, and something goes wrong, you may die. We can only rescue someone when we are activated and if we know where to look. If you fail to tell someone where you are going (leaving a detailed trip plan), there is a high likelihood we will not be activated until it is too late.
Check out this link for more information on trip planning and how to leave a trip plan: https://www.adventuresmart.ca/tripplanning/planning.htm
3. Failing to take the proper equipment
What follows is the often repeated erroneous thought process of those we rescue (and those who narrowly avoid needing rescue): “It’s so close to the city, what’s the worst that could happen”
Well… here are a couple examples of the worst that can happen:
- You get lost and have to wait for rescue overnight with temperatures dropping close to zero;
- You slip and break your ankle (due to insufficient ankle support) and have to wait hours for rescue;
- You don’t have sufficient light to navigate the trail and end up in terrain where a slip can result in serious injury or death;
- You come across someone who is injured and in need of assistance; and
These are not hypothetical. They have happened, and they will happen again.
Sometimes rescue can take a long time depending on weather, location, and a number of other circumstances (or not come at all if you didn’t tell anyone where you are going). Street clothes are usually cotton, and if wet, can actually aid in stealing your body heat. The worst that can happen is not pretty.
So, we recommend always taking the 10 Essentials (Visit the Link for Details). If you don’t have them, buy them. They can save your life.
4. Failing to wear proper footwear
This issue is extremely common. If you are heading into the wilderness, you need footwear that is sufficient for the activity and the conditions. This is almost never street shoes.
Ideally, shoes should provide good ankle support and have sufficient tread to avoid slipping. If you are unsure of what to wear, head down to your local outdoor store, and let the staff help you out.
Remember, proper footwear is part of the minimum kit required of responsible hikers!
So please, social media influencers, bloggers, and media, assist us with our public safety mandate. Link to the resources in your post, and encourage your followers to take the steps to be safe. Getting prepared, and having the basic gear is not expensive and it is not hard.