Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How not to get lost

A cold night in a creek
Whistler SAR has been receiving many calls of distress from lost skiers, and snowboarders during the last few weeks, and recently with fatal consequences. Back country users in the Whistler area should be prepared to navigate in whiteout conditions, have knowledge of local terrain, proper outdoor gear, a buddy capable of companion rescue, first aid skills, and avalanche training. Cell phones work in some areas, and not in others if your lost conserve your batteries. Always tell someone responsible where you are going, and your time of return, or file a itinerary with the mountain. If you are lost in the back country find a location where you will be visible from the air, and note any prominent landmarks, make a shelter, and stay put. Dial 911 for assistance and don't waste your cell phone batteries.

Whistler SAR would like to remind people that often they will not be reported missing early enough in the day to launch a search, and therefore stand a very good chance of spending the night out. Very likely there will be consequences to your actions.. Many tracks have been spotted from the air from people in precarious situations off the backside of Whistler mtn. Many of the incidents have gone largely unreported probably because no one knew they were out there.

If you leave the ski area boundary into the backcountry you will most definatley see signs.
You are leaving the ski area boundry
The minumum you should have with you

1. Avalanche transceiver 457khz(on your body)
and demonstrated ability to use it
2. A partner
3. Shovel/ Probe
4. Knowledge of the terrain and your ability.
5. Avalanche knowledge
6. Knowledge of local avalanche conditions
7. Basic First Aid/ Survival equipment
8. Food / Water
9. Charged Cell phone, VHF radio, or Sat phone, contact numbers
10. Navigation equipment.
11. Good backcountry ski/ board
equip in good working order/ ability to ascend

• know this winter’s snowpack layers
• know the recent snowfall & type
• know current CAA Avalanche Center forecast, Whistler mtn Forecast
• know today’s weather forecast (snowfall, temperature & visibility)

Getting lost / How not to get lost
Legend--All maps.
Ski area boundry--pink
Out of bounds/ Caution areas--yellow
Area's to get lost in-- !

Common Mistakes:

Down at the lake: Cheakamus lake is easily accessed during the summer, winter is a different story! You may find yourself 15km away from any civilizaton. Just a bunch of stinky empty pit toilets full from the summer! Also popular shelters for unintentional night outings!


Cheakamus lake on a beauty day!
Cheakamus at nightfall as the temperature drops to -10c

If you find yourself here STAY THERE!! It's one of the first places we look! (look for a red or black heli hovering low) Make yourself visible from the air at the shoreline. Helicopter rescue will be your only choice.
This picture is the exact spot and a popular spot to spent a cold night. Stay off the ice it's usually thin! Once again people have died here! There is a map on a bill board near the entrance to the river in a partial clearing near toilets!

-KHYBER PASS / LEFT OF THE KHYBER- This is beyond the ski area boundary. Always travel with a buddy. You may be charged for rescue if mountain resources are used for your rescue. Don't go too far left off STU inn more than 700 vert ft or you will be wandering aimlessly through cliff bands, and gullies going up and down all over the place very disorienting even to locals. You have to clear the pass at this elevation by exiting to the right or your getting sucked into Khyber cliffs, and the Cheakamus Lk area. Exit is via road in clearcut back to creekside. Don't go unless you are with someone that knows where they are going 100%......
Khyber Pass Area
Cliffs if you screw up and go too far skiers left!

-CAKE HOLE South west side Whistler mtn ends at a waterfall 2/3 way down flanked by cliffs. Also a Avalanche path. Ducking a rope off the back of the Peak chair (south side) will put you in here. Once your in sucked in it becomes increasing harder to escape the beast! Stay away if you don't know what your doing! There's a small rescue cache attached to a big fir tree (biggest tree in photo lower left)at the bottom of the open area below waterfall near to the summer trail.
Waterfall at the bottom
A popular place to spend a night!

-BELOW CAT ROAD ON HARMONY OR PICOLLO NORTH SIDE: A trail provides access to Singing pass don't miss the trail (marked with reflective markers on trees) or you will be in the creek which is a tangle of logs and is flanked in places with cliff bands, and gullies. Fitzsimmons creek is a ugly place.
North Side Whistler Mtn

-BACKSIDE PICOLLO- South west side Whistler mtn starts in steep terrain flanked by cliffs. Also a huge Avalanche path with big potential for big avalanches. Prepare for a cold night at Cheakamus lake 11km to the road!!! There is a summer trail out but it's hard to follow in winter (marked with reflective markers on trees) Stay out and don't ski off the back of Picollo.
Avalanche path runs for 3500ft

Whistler's backcountry includes the musical bumps, and is more mellow than Blackcomb offering excellent backcountry skiing.
Garibaldi park boundry line / Stay left of Yellow line

-EAST SIDE FLUTE/ BACKSIDE- Ducking the rope of the back of Flute is a popular backcountry area in Garibaldi park. Many ski tourers, split boarders use this area. The usual exit is from the singing pass trail. Buy a map! Even locals in a whiteout have a tough time navigate it's broad featureless summit area. The backside of Flute towards Cheakamus Lake (going too far right of yellow line!) Will end you up in terrain you will wish you had never entered! Serious avalanche gullies start here and run right to the lake. Even it you make it to the lake you might as well be on the backside of the moon! Exit to the right via cheakamus lake trail (if you can find it!)Don't go east up the lake to what is called moose meadows, putting yourself even further away into the middle of nowhere!! The usual entrance to the park is along the ski area boundry sign line about 2/3 of the way along it. (going left off summit follow rope then cut right towards oboe) If you don't have backcountry equipment do not use this area!
Backside Picollo / Cheakamus Lk
Moose meadows on not such a nice day!


-BELOW 7TH HEAVEN: A tangle of steep terrain, tight thick trees, and bluffs, if you make it to the valley you are in the middle of Fitzsimmons creek just as it gets dark. 8km away from any Civilization
Below 7th Heaven
-BELOW BLACKCOMB GLACIER SKI OUT: A forest that isn't worth anybodys time. Flat tight trees with two knarly creeks running on either side. Stay out !!
Blackcomb and Horstman Creeks

Blackcomb's backcounrty is huge! Full of big glaciers, cliffs, icefalls, gullies, and big mountain terrain. If you don't know exactly what your doing, and are very good at it please stay away. You will get spanked!

-DECKER MEADOWS: You can't get here unless you hike!!! If your going to Corona or Husume know where your going. Blindly following tracks will lead you to Whistler Heli ski pick-up. Only to find the tracks vanish. Don't follow heli-ski tacks. If your going into the Blackcomb backcountry buy a map and know how to navigate in white out conditions. A wrong turn will leave you in Wedge creek for a very cold night in a creek! People have died here before from exposure. 6-8 hours to road if you know where your going!
Decker Meadows
Decker Area

They are absolutely to be respected. People have died many times ducking ropes!!!!!
Duck a rope and be prepared to get yourself into a mess of trouble.
Area's are closed for a good reason..... People rountinly die here!

Enter only through gate

Travel with competent companions, and be prepared for self rescue.
If you require assistance dial 911..

Avalanche kills man in closed area of Whistler

Avalanche kills man in closed area of Whistler
Updated Tue. Jan. 1 2008 10:05 PM ET

The Canadian Press / Whistler mtn

A 29-year-old male skier died in the West Bowl area of Whistler Mountain early Tuesday when he and a snowboarder entered a permanently closed area and were swept over a 50-metre cliff by a small avalanche.

The unidentified skier died of injuries sustained in his fall, said Doug Forseth, senior vice-president of Whistler Blackcomb.

The 21-year-old male snowboarder survived the fall. He was airlifted to the Whistler Medical Clinic, where he was treated before being taken to Vancouver General Hospital for further treatment.

Forseth said the skier and snowboarder entered a dangerous area known as Hanging Roll, which is just west of the Peak Chair.

The area has been closed for 20 years and is clearly marked as a restricted area with permanent fence posts and three levels of wire

WHISTLER, B.C. -- The high risk of avalanches is proving deadly after one man was killed and another seriously injured, after going in a permanently closed area in Whistler.
RCMP say they believe the men triggered an avalanche by going in the remote area near West Bowl on skis and snowboards and were swept over a cliff. The area was marked as permanently closed and has been so for 20 years.
"It's an area that's signed as permanently closed, it says `passes will be revoked beyond this point','' said Staff Sgt. Steve Leclair. "It's an area within ski area boundary where people are not suppose to go.''
Leclair said the man on the snowboard was treated at the scene and airlifted to a Whistler clinic before being sent to hospital in Vancouver.
He suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
The other man, who was on skis, died of injuries police believe he sustained in the avalanche.
Names have not been released. Leclair said both men worked in Whistler.
He urged that people respect the out of bound signs as they're marked that for a reason.
"They can trigger avalanches that can put persons in the regular ski areas at risk, and ski patrol and the people who come to rescue them'' said Leclair.

Two men were killed after triggering an avalanche on Christmas Eve in British Columbia's interior. Travis Dillman and Derek Henderson were snowmobiling at a lake near 108 Mile Ranch with two others when a small avalanche hit.
They were digging themselves out when a larger one hit. Henderson was found dead by rescue crews that night, while Dillman's body was discovered the next day by a dog team.

Skier killed after being swept over cliff
>Snowboarding partner survived fall but may face charges
By Clare Oligvie Pique Newsmagazine

Police are gathering evidence to determine whether or not to recommend charges of criminal negligence against the survivor of an avalanche on Whistler Mountain New Year’s Day that killed his companion.

Both were in a permanently closed area near the top of the mountain.

The two triggered a small avalanche in an area known as Hanging Roll, west of the Peak Chair. The slide carried them over 75-metre cliffs to the West Bowl run below. Neither was buried by the avalanche.

The 29-year-old skier died, likely due to injuries sustained in the fall, and the 21-year-old snowboarder, Ben Moses, is now in Vancouver General Hospital recovering from serious but non-life threatening injuries.

“In this particular case we are actively investigating and if there is enough evidence for charges we will recommend charges to crown counsel,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of the Sea to Sky Policing Services.

“It is done on a case by case basis. There is a responsibility to attempt to change irresponsible behaviour at ski resorts.”

Whistler-Blackcomb’s senior vice president of operations Doug Forseth said it was up to police to determine if charges are warranted.

But, he said: “Anything that helps people get focused and paying attention (to this issue) is probably a good thing.

“There are permanent posts drilled into the rock and three levels of wire cable to make a fence and the area is posted as permanently closed,” Forseth said of the Hanging Roll area.

“You can’t just ski through that, you would clearly know.

“If we catch people in that area it is an immediate loss of pass. It is very dangerous.”

Forseth said the snowboarder, a pass holder, would lose his privileges for at least a year.

He would not confirm or deny whether either of the two people involved in the incident were Whistler-Blackcomb employees. Both were Whistler residents though Moses is from LaSalle, Ontario.

Ski patrollers were alerted to the accident by witnesses and rushed to the scene, arriving about 11:40 a.m. The accident happened about 15 minutes earlier. Efforts to revive the skier were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The snowboarder was taken off the mountain and transferred to the Whistler Health Care Centre and then on to Vancouver General Hospital.

Both the RCMP and the coroner are investigating and neither are releasing the names.

The family of the deceased skier has asked that his name not be released.

Full avalanche control was done on Sunday following some fresh snowfall. Only one centimetre of snow fell on Monday and winds were light.

While sending condolences to the family Forseth also said: “There is one very basic message here. The signage is out there for a reason. It is for their safety and we want people to give signage due respect.

“These are needless losses. There are so many places people can go to get good powder without putting yourself or others at risk.

“Hopefully some people will learn some lessons out of this harsh reality.”

This is not the first time that adventure seekers have been swept over the cliff, said LeClair, who has been patrolling on the mountains for 14 years.

In February 2001 two skiers were swept over the same cliffs though in that case both survived.

“I was on the scene for that one,” said LeClair.

“I have taken people out of there myself.

“People do go in there looking for that thrill and it is a fine line. It is a very, very, very, treacherous risky terrain in there and that is why it is closed.”