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More serious emergencies on Skaha Bluffs than average

PENTICTON – Penticton Search and Rescue (PENSAR) crews are called out to the Skaha Bluffs an average of once per year. But so far, this year is anything but average, with already four rescues through the month of June.

The bluffs attract climbing enthusiasts from around the world and Randy Brown with PENSAR says too many of them are not adequately prepared.

“People can say they’ve got a lot of experience no matter how much experience you have, you still have to follow the basic rules of safety,” says Brown. “All the people that we have done evacuations for this year are from out of the area.”

He has some advice for those who aren’t experienced climbers.

“Look at what you need in terms of equipment, make sure you check your ropes and you have enough rope with you, that you have enough gear and also that you make sure you have your safety precautions and everything that you need set out.”

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Brown says last year there was one death from a fall in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. While no one has died this season, all four of the injury incidents have been serious, from broken bones to severe lacerations.

“Of the four tasks that we’ve had, it’s been that inability for people to pay attention, that slight lapse of judgement has resulted in some kind of catastrophic event where people get hurt and then we have to respond and evacuate those people,” says Brown.

For some, the danger associated with the sport is what makes it appealing.

“You do it for the challenge and with the challenge there’s a degree of risk, and if it weren’t for the risk maybe we wouldn’t be doing it,” says Keith Campbell, who is visiting Penticton from Alberta and was out climbing on the bluffs on Friday.

It’s a sport that is gaining traction in the world-renowned climbing spot.

“A lot of people are coming out now, there’s a lot more bolts and a lot more schools teaching it and it’s getting to be quite popular,” says Jim Ongena who is a certified guide.

He says the more people doing it, the more chances there are of there being an accident – all the more reason to be prepared for the rocky climb ahead.

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