Search and rescue crews urge caution to backcountry explorers

There isn’t an enormous amount of snow on the North Shore Mountains. But there are winter conditions, and in some areas the danger levels are so high popular routes have been closed.

“Right now the area we’re most worried about is Hanes Valley and Lynn Headwaters,” says North Shore Rescue Team Leader Mike Danks, who is worried about people hiking in winter conditions without enough knowledge or experience.

“It’s closed for a reason because when there’s snow back there it’s really dangerous. There’s a large avalanche shoot there, and based on the current conditions now, where we have just a small amount of snow, it covers up the rock slope there and you can easily penetrate through. And that’s how you can break a leg.”

READ MORE: North Shore Rescue being stretched physically and financially to the limit

The area is treacherous: tourist Tom Billings disappeared while hiking two years ago, and there has been no sign of him. And 21 year old hiker Liang Jin’s body was found in February, six weeks after he went hiking in the Hanes Valley.

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But many parts of the North Shore draw in outdoor enthusiasts year round, including the Grouse Grind, where people could still be found this weekend ignoring the “No Entry” sign and jumping the fence – even though the trail is covered with snow at the top.

“People are going out for hikes now that they generally did in the Summer and we have sunset at 4:07 p.m. People are getting caught off guard and they are not generally prepared for the icy conditions on the mountains,” says Danks.

Avalanche Canada is still compiling information to put out bulletins. With several storms recently hitting the south coast, the snowpack is already being called ‘complex and unsettled’.

“Be ready to spend the night,” says Brad Harrison with the Backcountry Lodges of BC Association.

“It’s likely not to happen, but things go sideways, so you should be ready to at least survive for the evening.”


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