Since there seems to be a never ending amount of top 5 and top 10 lists and photos of beautiful hikes being shared, with absolutely no information about how to do it safely, I thought I would share our top 5 favourite hikes (to rescue people from).
1. Hanes Valley
Lots of sites and social media posts promote Hanes Valley as a great hike, summer or winter (its actually closed in the winter). The reason this is a popular place to rescue people from is that it is remote, has terrible cell coverage, and is a vast area. It really makes rescues in this area very challenging. It’s 16 km one way – which can take someone 9.5 hours, but can take much longer – and then you get caught out at night. There are generally not a lot of people hiking it at any given time, so if you do it alone and sprain your ankle (and you don’t tell anyone where you went hiking) you can expect that this will be your last hike (ever).
2. Crown Mountain
For some reason people love to get lost and injured on Crown Mountain. Crown has some extremely steep slopes and cliffs surrounding it that people climb up or down on, and then get stuck on, or fall off of. There is also the Widowmaker Arete approach to Crown which sometimes people accidentally end up on from Hanes Valley (see above). As something named “The Widowmaker” you can probably guess you don’t want to end up on this accidentally. Crown is easily accessible from Grouse, which makes it “super easy” to hike to and provides us with plenty of customers all summer. And of course someone has been pulling down the signage in this area, which, as you can imagine makes hikers very confused.
3. Mt. Seymour
Mt. Seymour really is a bunch of different hikes all rolled into one. Which can make things challenging if someone says they are hiking on Mt. Seymour, we really have no idea where they are. As well, there are two huge valleys hikers can go into by accident – to the East down into Indian Arm – there is some excellent terrain which includes bushwacking, cliffs and more. To the West is the aptly named Suicide Gully. Hiking down after lost hikers into gullies called “Suicide” can be exciting. This is also a very popular spot for skiers and snowboarders to head down into. In the winter there is the potential for avalanches adding to the challenge. Again its also very accessible and provides us plenty of rescues all year round.
4. St. Marks (aka Howe Sound Crest Trail)
This is one of our rising stars. For some reason St. Marks has become extremely popular in the last two years, and sees a lot of traffic. Even though the trail is very well marked, somehow people end up going off the ridge into the drainages on each side. I am guessing it might be because you can see the city lights, and you think you can get home faster by going down. I can assure you the fastest way home is on the trail – I’ve tried the other routes – and they suck. The trail to St. Marks is dense forest so its impossible to spot lost hikers from the helicopter, and if someone is injured – long lining them out of a forest with 175 foot tall trees makes for some very challenging conditions for our pilots.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Montizambert Creek in this. Really its not part of the trail, but if you are lost then technically nothing is part of the trail so I can get a away with including it here. Montizambert Creek draws hikers and snowboarders alike down into a gully towards the Lions Bay area. The gully is full of extremely steep slopes, cliffs, and a number of large waterfalls. Very very challenging and dangerous. Montizambert is becoming increasingly popular for our winter rescues – since, if you head off into the woods from Sky Chair you can get some great powder heading down, before heading into Montizambert. Once in the gully you can take off your snowboard, realize that hiking up is impossible in deep snow, and instead of staying put – continue down towards the waterfalls.
5. Grouse Grind/BCMC area
This area is a huge mess of trails. I’ve been hiking this area for many years and its still confusing. The funny thing about this area is that it looks fairly innocuous. Theoretically its pretty chill hiking up to the ski chalet. Inevitably hikers get off the trail (quite often at dusk or at night), and not having a head lamp, manage to get themselves into some ridiculous situations. There are some extremely large cliffs (300 foot cliffs) and very steep gullies and waterfalls all over the front side of Grouse. Somehow many many hikers find these and hike, climb or fall into them, making locating the lost hikers and extracting them very difficult.
Don’t Want to Get Lost?
With a little preparation you can avoid all this. Before you head out make sure you research your route, ensure you have the appropriate equipment and tell someone where you are going. Also with many phones now, GPS operates without cell coverage, so if you download a hiking app like OsmAnd Maps, or Gaia GPS and download the offline maps you should always know where you are – assuming you have enough battery and have tested your offline maps. I would also suggest carrying a battery charger. However, phones break and run out of batteries so an old-school paper map is an essential back-up.
If you are lost – stop moving, phone 911. Don’t phone your friends and ask for advice. So many times we are talking to lost hikers and they only have a small amount of battery left as they were phoning friends asking for advice. As well, put your phone on airplane mode when you start hiking. You can still use your GPS apps and it saves a lot of battery.
DO NOT hike alone. Or if you do hike alone, hike on a popular trail, and follow all of the steps above. If you are hiking alone a simple ankle sprain or break can be a death sentence – so many people do not think about this. Your risk factor increases dramatically if you are alone.
Finally I challenge all bloggers and social media influencers out there to include some safety information with their posts. Please please link to the North Shore Rescue site and post your hiking lists and photographs responsibly. I would also ask our readers if you see these lists or posts out there without any mention of preparation or safety, to post a comment with links to our site and the Adventure Smart site. Who knows, maybe that post will save someone from needing a rescue or save someone’s life.