Ode to North Shore Search and Rescue

Snowshoeing Photo: Rob Weiss

With headlamps, crampons, climbing rope and first aid kits on hand, the brave volunteers of  North Shore Search and Rescue have become regular fixtures on our local mountains.  These local heroes routinely put their lives at risk to provide help to those injured, lost and sometimes misguided hikers, skiers, and mountain bikers who encounter difficulties while playing in the hills.  Saving lives for over 50 years, our incredible group of rescuers is one of the oldest search and rescue teams in the country.

Snowboarding at Cypress Mountain Resort Photo: Rob Weiss

From Australia to Great Britain, and the Alps to Chile, outdoor folk around the world dream of relatively effortless access to mountains.  Imagine living in a city, where you can grab your snowboard, walk a few steps to the bus stop and within minutes be purchasing a lift ticket.  I contend Vancouverites, myself included, are spoiled.  Because our majestic North Shore mountains are relatively close and the backcountry is easily accessible, I suspect we regard the area more as a park than the extreme, rugged wilderness it is.  Despite North Shore Search and Rescue’s best efforts to educate and warn us, people often find themselves in trouble.

Ski Cypress Mountain Resort Photo: Rob Weiss

As epic snowfalls entice us to the backcountry, I am reminded of the old saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”  Before you contemplate skiing or boarding out of bounds, consider the risks.  Boundaries are in place for good reason and must be respected.  Travelling in the backcountry is a high-risk endeavour and should only be attempted by those with avalanche training and outdoor survival knowledge.  Play safe!

Cross Country Trails – Cypress Mountain Resort Photo: Rob Weiss

Certainly, our local ski hills, snowshoe trails and backcountry routes are popular amongst locals and tourists, and as an “outdoor enthusiast” I would encourage all to venture outside, with a simple caveat – be prepared!  In the wise words of the North Shore Search and Rescue team, always carry the following 10 Essentials for Survival:

  1. Light – Flashlight or headlamp
  2. Signalling Device, such as a whistle
  3. Fire Starter
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Knife
  6. Shelter – trap or large orange plastic bag
  7. Extra water and food
  8. First-aid kit
  9. Compass and Map
  10. Cell phone – remember, don’t rely on your phone. Batteries die, and coverage in the mountains is usually limited.

Now, check the weather forecast, pack your gear, log your trip plan and embrace Vancouver’s magnificent playground!  Hike the trails, ride the rails and set course for the back-country. There is much to explore!

Interested in learning more about the North Shore Search and Rescue team?  Visit their website.

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