2020 was a busy year for Ridge Meadows Search & Rescue.
This year, so far, the team has attended 60 calls. And, the year is not over yet.
In 2019 the team attended 46 calls.
“We definitely saw an increased call volume,” remarked Bryan Moffatt, the Ridge Meadows Search & Rescue manager who has been with the team for the past 13 years.
This was one of the busiest years he can remember.
Even though the season has quieted down recently – mainly because daylight hours are shorter and the gate to Golden Ears Provincial Park closes earlier – it doesn’t mean the local search and rescue team won’t get a call.
On average the team attends to about six winter rescues a season.
This would include calls that involved snow travel, where people they were rescuing or searching for were exposed to freezing temperatures or where they were hypothermic or close to it, explained Moffatt.
Just two weeks ago they were called to rescue a trail-runner who hurt her ankle along the Lower Alouette. There was no snow, but it was a rescue, just the same.
Moffatt still sees a fair amount of people heading to Alouette Mountain and Evans Peak at this time of the year. Some even attempt Golden Ears Summit, although Golden Ears is what he would call an “ambitious” hike with the time constraints.
“But there is the occasional group that tries to do it,” he said.
And, he said, there are plenty of risks to any of those hikes.
There is definitely a risk of avalanches in the area or the risk of slipping and falling in the snow.
“We’ve had a number of rescues where people have slipped on the way up to Evans Peak and they’ve taken a long fall, a long slide in the snow and injured themselves,” said Moffatt.
Or, he said, there is the chance of exposure or hypothermia, on all of those mountains, especially if a hiker doesn’t have the right equipment.
“You could be hiking in the rain down closer to the valley and then get up into the freezing temperatures where it’s snowing and your equipment is soaking wet and you’ve exposed yourself to some pretty dangerous conditions,” he noted.
Anytime people venture out they should have with them the 10 essentials: a flashlight with spare batteries and bulb; a fire-making kit including waterproof matches or lighter and a fire starter or candle; a signalling device such as a whistler or mirror; extra food and water, at least one litre per person; extra clothing for protection against the rain, wind, water and a toque; navigation and communication aids, at least a map and a compass; a first aid kit and know how to use it; an emergency shelter such as an orange tarp or blanket; a pocket knife; and sun protection including glasses, sunscreen and a hat.
When travelling in avalanche terrain, Moffatt added, people need to have the appropriate training and gear to be able to initiate a self rescue.
And, let somebody know where you are going.