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Maple Ridge emergency hiking shelter celebrates 20 years of saving lives

Golden Ears Provincial Park structure has helped countless hikers since its 2002 construction

The first and only emergency hiking shelter in Golden Ears Provincial Park celebrated its 20th anniversary this summer, after helping countless people over the past two decades when they’ve found themselves in trouble near the peak.

Before the construction of the shelter began in September 2002, sudden weather changes posed a real threat to hikers, especially along the Golden Ears Trail.

At an elevation of over 1,500 metres, Golden Ears is home to some unpredictable weather. According to a 2020 global study, more than 20 per cent of hiking accidents happen partially due to poor weather conditions.

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The weather became such a problem that Ron Paley, former trail-master for Golden Ears Trail Preservation and Restoration Club, was personally involved in multiple rescues while prepping the future construction site.

“One involved a couple of guys hiking and one of them did something to his ankle. His buddy tried piggybacking him down the mountain, but it’s hard enough hiking that mountain, so there was no way he would’ve made it while giving a piggyback ride to someone else,” Paley said.

“The other one was a guy and his two young kids who took the wrong mountain path. They thought they were at Alouette but ended up on Golden Ears, and it was going to be dark before they made it back down. So, we stayed with them to camp out and had to call the rescue team to come get them the next morning.”

Ron Paley, trailmaster for GETPARC, standing on top of Golden Ears summit (Ron Paley/Special to the News)

Since the structure was completed on Oct. 1, 2002, many people have visited it – whether for emergency or personal use.

Rick Laing, spokesperson for the Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, emphasizes that this long-standing shelter is designed to be used in only extreme cases.

“I know there have been several occasions where people have had to find shelter in there and then be rescued,” Laing said. “But, a lot of people seem to use it as a destination instead of for emergencies.”

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The tough conditions of Golden Ears makes it likely that many more of the nearly 1 million people who visit the provincial park each year will need to seek out this shelter in the future.

“I’ve done the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and it’s easier than Golden Ears,” Paley said.

It’s because of this challenging terrain that completing the emergency shelter took more than two weeks and $50,000. But according to Paley, he looks back on the challenge fondly.

“If this shelter has saved even one life, it’s worth it.”

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Brandon Tucker

About the Author: Brandon Tucker

I have been a journalist since 2013, with much of my career spent covering sports and entertainment stories in Alberta.
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