“It’s beautiful out there, but it can be really deadly,” said Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue team lead, Rick Laing. (Black Press files)

“It’s beautiful out there, but it can be really deadly,” said Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue team lead, Rick Laing. (Black Press files)

Maple Ridge back-country deadly during avalanche season, but difficult to get to

Avalanche Canada issues avalanche warning for B.C.’s South Coast region

A warning issued by Avalanche Canada for the B.C. South Coast region on Thursday (Jan. 28), is relevant to the mountains around Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows, but is unlikely to affect many, a search and rescue team leader said.

Rick Laing, of Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, said the local back-country is a lot more difficult to access during winter.

“Fortunately we don’t get very many, if any [rescue] calls up in the high alpine during the winter, just because it is a long way to get in there,” he said.

“To get into areas that are truly avalanche problem areas, like Golden Ears and Edge [Peak], and the bowl on the approach to it, you’ve got to hike really far.

“It’s not like the North Shore mountains where you can park your car and within ten minutes you’re in avalanche terrain. Here you’ve got to put some effort into it.”

READ MORE: Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue aid woman stranded by waterfall

Avalanche Canada said the snowpack in the South Coast region is highly unusual, with a buried weak layer that is generally not found in this warmer climate.

The unusually cold weather over the past month has created an active and dangerous weakness in the snowpack, especially in the North Shore Mountains.

The weak layer is widespread and relatively easy for a person to trigger, explained Avalanche Canada forecaster Kate Devine.

“There have already been a number of close calls and the snowfall predicted [this past weekend] will bury this layer even deeper,” she said.

“This added snow load will increase the depth and size of the avalanche, which could be deadly for anyone who is caught.”

Avalanche Canada recommends backcountry users should always check their regional avalanche forecasts at www.avalanche.ca.

Everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential rescue gear—transceiver, probe, and shovel—and the knowledge to use it.

“It’s beautiful out there, but it can be really deadly,” said Laing.

Have a story tip? Email: ronan.p.odoherty@blackpress.ca

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