Monday, October 19, 2009

New Website

Check out our new website.
Link to Whistler SAR new site---->>

Our blog site

This site will be maintained as our blog.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Backcountry Tips

With the snow melting away slowly more people will be out and about in the valley. Hiking and tavelling in the backcountry of Whistler.

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.

Backpacking ten essentials:

Communication: 911 Service is available throughout Whistler.

Contact: Search and rescue through local RCMP, Whistler SAR can be paged through RCMP. We utilize helicopter rescue in most cases, and are equipped with helicopter long-line, high angle rope, swiftwater and mountain rescue equipment. Making yourself visible from the air in a open location can help, along with co-ordinates of your location from your GPS unit can greatly expediate your rescue.

Ambulance: Air ambulance service is available throught the Valley if your at a site that they can easily land. Availble though EHS. Usually about 1hr away.

Being able to call for help is essential, and can greatly add to your survival. Carry a cell phone, and charge it before you go. Most mountain top locations will have cell service in the immediate area. Cell sites are located at Black Tusk Microwave, Whistler peak, Alpine, Alta lake road, Emerald, Rutherford. Remote valley bottoms tend to have poor coverage.

Choices best first
1)Sat phone
2)VHF Radio /Cell Phone.
3)Plb/ Spot ME (the only problem here is you cant't tell some one what your situation is)
4)Ground to air signals. Smoke, SOS etc....

Also make sure you tell a responsible person where your going, and your time of return.

Making a detailed trip plan, and leaving it with a responsible person. One way to do this is preview your anticipated route in google earth, draw a path by clicking on the plot a path icon along your route, even plot campsites etc. by adding new placemarks, and then save as a .kmz file. Under places select your current route and right click on your route (save place as)
Open Google earth and click on examples
A route along the musical bumps
A planned campsite
A day trip to Russet Lk

A picture is worth a million words, and Whistler SAR can easily upload this file from your designated contact.

Conversely, it is generally inexperience and lack of good judgment that gets people into trouble. Not only must we have the proper equipment -- including the ten essentials plus four -- and know how to use them, but we must also cultivate knowledge and wisdom related to the backcountry activities that we engage in--thru self-study, courses, and leveraging off the experiences of others.

The most important essential , however, is not on the list--"Common Sense". Having the right gear is one thing, knowing how and when to use it is quite another. Most often, it's not a person's equipment that saves their bacon. It's their experience, know-how, and good judgment. Learn to be extra carefull, and not take extra risks toward the end of the day, or in remote locations.

The essentials

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1. Map
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2. Compass
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
3. Flashlight / Headlamp
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
4. Extra Food
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
5. Extra Clothes
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
6. Sunglasses
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
7. First-Aid Kit
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
8. Pocket Knife
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
9. Waterproof Matches
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
10. Firestarter
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Four others...

11. Water / Filter / Bottles
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
12. Whistle
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
13. Insect Repellents or Clothing
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
14. Sunburn Preventatives
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1. Map | GPS | Altimeter
Always carry a detailed map of the area you will be visiting. If alpine scrambling 1:50,000 or otherwise navigating cross-country consider the 1:100,000--they reveal considerable detail. Local Maps 92J/2 Whistler, 92J/3 Brandywine falls, 92G/15 Cheakamus river cover the entire Whistler area. Available at the Escape route in Whistler or MEC in Vancouver. For traveling on lower trails, many local maps are available in 1:25,000 scale with trails overlaid on them is a good choice, mountian bike maps are excellant with countours, and show almost evry trail in the valley. The point is to carry a map appropriate for the area you will be in and the activity you will be undertaking--and know how to use it ! GPS now have built in base maps. OK if you have lots of extra batteries for a day trip. The newer ones work in most places, and tend to work well in the forest if turned on and aqquired a position in a open area first. Altimeters are usefull for finding your elevation on a map, and to calculate how much vertical you've done.

2. Compass:
Carry a compass, at all times, in the backcountry--and know how to use it ! Some features to look for: 0 to 360 degrees, preferably, in 2 degree increments;
liquid filled, which protects the magnetic needle and its jeweled bearing and minimizes fluctuation; a base plate--3" to 4", in length-- which can be used as a straight-edge for taking map bearings and determining distances on maps; an adjustable declination to account for the difference between Magnetic North and True North. The compass responds to Magnetic North, whereas, maps are based upon True North. Therefore, the compass needs to be adjusted to compensate. An adjustable declination feature lets you turn a small screw to "permanently" adjust declination to match the geographic area you will be in, so that you don't need to calculate your bearing each time. Declination in Whistler is around 19.5 degrees east of Grid north, a fold-out mirror for sightings. The mirror allows for more accurate readings because you can position the mirror such that the mirror and the distant objective are both visible at the same time. A clinometer is useful for measuring vertical angles and, thus, measures slope steepness. This feature is helpful in determining avalanche potentials, and for determining position on a map.

3. Flashlight / Headlamp:
Flashlights and/or Headlamps are important even on day trips. You never know when you might need to spend the night or make that last mile or so after sunset, or due to a minor problem your running late! Here's some features to look for:
lights which are water resistant--they function reliably in all weather. Look for rubberized bulb housing and battery compartments, or at least adequate rubber gaskets. Lights which come with extra bulbs stored inside their housing.
lights which have rotating head or body as the on/off mechanism. Avoid lights with on/off switches which can accidentally be turned-on as it is jostled about in your pack.

4. Extra Food:
Whenever you go out, even for a day trip, bring extra food in case you are delayed by emergencies, foul weather, or just get lost. A one-day supply, at the very least, bring one good meal more than what you need. The food should require little or no cooking. If your extra food will require cooking, make sure you also carry extra fuel for your stove.

5. Extra Clothing:
In addition to the basic layers you would normally take on an outing, bring extra clothing which would get you through an unplanned bivouac through the worst conditions you might come up against. Extra clothing means a little extra beyond what you would normally carry, just in case of emergencies. Synthetic or wool should be your only choice. Cotton kills.

In addition to the extra clothes, carry an emergency shelter such as a waterproofed tube tent or mylar Space Bag (or blanket). The Space Bag only weighs about 2.5 ounces but will completely encase you and keep you warm and dry. Another option is a VBL (vapor barrier liner ) The VBL can be used on a regular basis to add warmth to your sleeping bag as well as serve as an emergency shelter. It's a little heavier than the Space bag -- 6.5 ounces.

6. Sunglasses:
Your eyes can experience damage from the intensity of mountain skies, ultraviolet rays, and light reflecting off of snow. As elevation increases so does the intensity of ultraviolet rays. Adequate eye protection is a must!

7. First-Aid Kit:
Carry first-aid supplies for minor injuries. In particular, carry plenty of adhesive band-aids and sterilized bandages, because they can't be easily improvised in the woods. What to carry ? A good book to reference is "Mountaineering First Aid" 3rd edition, by Lentz, Macdonald, and Carline, published by The Mountaineers.

Once you are familiar with the supplies you need, you can purchase a kit or make your own. If you purchase one, you'll most likely need to add to it ( items like CPR mask, rubber gloves, etc. ) since most commercially prepared kits are inadequate.

Also, If you spend any time in the backcountry, it would be a good idea to enroll in a mountaineering first aid course.

8. Pocket Knife & Tools:
Your basic backpacking tool kit. A good example of a single piece of gear which has multiple uses.

At a minimum, knives are useful for first aid, food preparation, cutting moleskin strips, cutting rope and making repairs. However, scrutinize your needs before you go out and buy a honker like the Victorinox Swiss Champ which has many tools you probably don't need and weighs 1/2 pound ! If you don't actually use a feature, then you probably don't need to be carrying it around

9. Waterproof Matches:
Carry a BIC in a warm pocket, and carry matches which have been waterproofed or wind and waterproofed, or else carry extra strike-anywhere matches--along with something to strike them on-- in a waterproof container. Keep these matches separate from your regular match or butane lighter supply. Keep them available for emergency situations.
There are many commercially prepared waterproof/windproof matches available on the market, e.g., "Hurricane" and "Cyclone" brands of wind & waterproof matches and Coghlan's waterproof safety matches.

10. Firestarter:
Fire starters are useful for quickly starting a fire, especially in emergency situations. They are also useful for igniting wet wood. There are several commercial fire starters available: magnesium blocks w/striking flint; chemically-treated fire sticks, etc.
In addition, numerous home-made fire starters work just fine: plumber's candles (wax); compressed balls of dryer lint mixed with or covered with melted paraffin; small strips of waxed cardboard (from old produce boxes); small flammable containers--individual egg-carton cups filled with mixtures of wood shavings, wax, & lint; etc.

11. Water / Filter / Bottles:
Carry plenty of fresh water. If you are familiar with the area in which you are traveling, and can be sure that water sources are available, carry enough water to get you there.

If you aren't bringing your water from home or a public source, treat the water you draw from the backcountry, regardless of the source. These days, everything is suspect.

Use water filter, purifier, chemical tablets, or boiling to treat the water before consuming.
For transporting inside your pack, use lightweight water bottles, such as Nalgene 16 oz and 32 oz lexan polycarbonate or high-density polyethylene wide-mouth bottles. Some folks use other containers such as old plastic pop bottles. That's okay too. Be careful they don't crack and/or leak, though. Hydration resevoirs are good, but can be fragile if not properly protected, and turn your pack into a watery mess.

12. Whistle:
For emergencies: when you're lost, someone else is lost, or you're hurt and need help, etc.

13. Insect clothing or repellents:
Three options
(1) practice letting them eat you
(2) use repellents
(3) Wear clothes they can't bite through

(14. Sunburn preventatives:
Remember, the higher the elevation, the greater the intensity of the sun. Although each of us has a different capacity -- a.k.a. different pigmentation -- for withstanding the sun's onslaught, the message is the same--the penalty for underestimating your need for protection is severe.

In sunny conditions, wear light-colored clothing and cover exposed skin, at least, with SPF rated sunscreen appropriate for you, at least 30. A big brimmed sunhat can save you from heat stroke and sunburn and can be a real savior on a hot day in the mountains.

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

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Whistles for LIFE

If you can be Heard, you can be Rescued.

Sound is the #1 factor in deterring crime and finding lost victims. When you are injured, cold, lost and tired, shouting can leave you hoarse and exhausted in a matter of minutes.

However, if you can breathe, you can easily blow this Safety Whistle and be found by Rescue Personnel.

For this reason our whistles are designed and tested by Search and Rescue Professionals, the same type of people who are looking for you when disaster strikes. Whistles for Life provides you with the most important tool for being found in a life and death situation...

The Ability To Be Heard.

Whistles for LIFE

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Special warning from CAC March 20, 2009

Special Avalanche Warning for Coast and Columbia Mountains of BC
Structurally weak snowpack means backcountry travellers must leave wide safety margins.

March 20, 2009 Revelstoke, BC:

The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is issuing a special public
avalanche warning for the South Coast Mountains from north of Pemberton to Squamish and Hope, the Columbia Mountains from Prince George to the US border and the North Rockies area from Mackenzie and Hudson Hope to the Kakwa provincial park. This warning goes into effect on Friday March 20 and extends through the weekend. The areas of concern are the uncontrolled backcountry mountain areas of the South Coast, Kootenay Boundary, South Columbia, North Columbia and the North Rockies.
Recent snow and rain has once again brought the snowpack to a tipping point with the potential for snowmobilers and backcountry skiers to trigger avalanches during their activities. Where and when an avalanche will occur is difficult to predict and this makes it hard for recreational backcountry users to plan their activities. “Under conditions like these people using the backcountry must leave an extra margin safety. This means selecting the terrain you use according to the current avalanche danger for your region,” says John Kelly, Operations
Manager for the Canadian Avalanche Centre.
Backcountry users need to be alerted to a high number of recent close calls in several areas of the province. A common theme is travellers letting their guard down. “I know it seems like there is a special warning every weekend”, continues Kelly, “it’s just that kind of year, second in a row, with a bad snowpack. So we have to keep the reminders pumping out. The tricky avalanche conditions are not going away.”
The Canadian Avalanche Centre has noted a disturbing trend in snowmobile fatalities with 13 of 19 avalanche deaths in Western Canada coming from the snowmobile user group. While avalanche deaths among backcountry skiers are on a declining trend, snowmobile fatalities are sharply up over the past two years. “We have to look ahead and prevent the next avalanche accident,” says Kelly. “So I have to say rather urgently that snowmobilers need to do two things before heading into avalanche terrain. Train yourself to properly master avalanche rescue gear –that means an avalanche transceiver, collapsible probe and shovel. Second, read the avalanche
bulletin and adjust your objective to fit with the primary avalanche concerns of the day.”
The CAC and partner public avalanche bulletins are your best source of information for snowpack conditions and backcountry travel advice. Check for up‐to‐date information and the avalanche hazard rating for your area before making backcountry travel plans.
Russet ridge with a large crown at the top Sunday

Recent Avalanches near Whistler crown visible on Fissle Peak in shadow

Friday, March 06, 2009


Persistent weak layers in the snowpack.

PWLs have been largely dormant in the recent dry spell and this has produced high confidence in people who may not realize that we've had quite a bit of new snow this week 47cm total around Whistler.

-Observations from around the valley include several instances of at least class 3 activity, even remotely in some cases. Feb 27 there were several large avalanches on the east aspect of Rainbow running class 3.5-4 and taking out other sympathetic pockets with it, and running far down the valley. Another north aspect had released around rocks unsupported and ran class 3. A group of heli skiers remotely released a 2.5 which triggered two other class 3's.

-even when PWLs are dormant, the occasional large and highly destructive avalanche is common

-dormant weak layers often wake up, become more sensitive to triggering, and sometimes fully reactivate when stressed by weather factors.

The most common weather factors that prod a dormant PWL are solar radiation, loading by wind or new snow, rain, and warm temperatures. Even if these factors do not trigger a deeply buried PWL directly, they often trigger cornice failures or smaller surface avalanches, which then step down to the deep PWLs. These avalanches are probably not survival able. So think about that before jumping into big lines even if you skiied it last week.

Rainbow east

Be carefully out there things are waking up and are priming for deep triggering with additional loading.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Backcountry update

Avalanche hazard remains a very real concern still despite a slowly strengthening snowpack. Although the probability of triggering the weak layer of facets deeper in the snowpack is declining, the consequences of triggering remain high; if triggered, this layer continues to produce large, widely propagating avalanches. The weakness extends pretty much from SE Alaska all the way to Utah through the coast and interior ranges.

Primary Concerns:

Deep Slab: It is still possible to trigger the December 6 facet/crust combo and the ensuing avalanche could be very large with potentially serious consequences. (Big chunks of hard slab the size of cars with you in the middle) This layer is beginning to show signs of strengthening which is a good sign, but it also makes it harder to predict if or where it could be triggered.

Continue to avoid likely trigger spots like steep rocky slopes, large convexities, shallow snowpack areas, and cross-loaded terrain.

Practice good safe-travel techniques and choose terrain with options to reduce your risk. Your best bet for decent riding is in sheltered north-facing glades where the snow remains cold.

All though far from Whistler worth noting is a fatal accident in Montana recently on Jan 18, 2009.

Snow depths at the accident site were highly variable; however, faceted snow crystals at or near the ground have been found on all aspects in this area.

The slope had been seriously tracked up before the slide occurred

A recent class 3 in Montana slid on the same type of facet layer

The victim was climbing a steep, north northeast facing slope on Crown Butte when he got stuck. While working to free his sled, it began tumbling down the slope. It tumbled 3-4 times before impacting a rock 50-100 ft below him. The slope then fractured about 75 ft above him. The resulting avalanche was estimated to be 300 ft wide and 1000 ft vertical. The crown height ranged from 2 ft to 15 ft, and the run out angle was 28 degrees. Link-->>

Some snowmobiling tips:

-Check your local avalanche bulletin. Canadian Avalanche association South coast
Link to site-->>

-Expose only one rider at a time on a slope, and don't stop in terrain traps. By stopping this one behavior we’d see avalanche fatalities plummet. Don't go and help your buddy unstick his sled at the top of their high mark you may be putting your own life at risk, and may be just the trigger the slope needs.

-Carry rescue gear and know how to use it, and make sure your buddy is capable of effecting your rescue. There’s nothing worse than going to an accident scene and finding someone dead from a shallow burial where a transceiver may have saved their life. In addition airbag backpacks are now available in Canada, and are worth looking into if your a serious enthusiast, statistics out of Europe suggest they greatly increase your chances of survival should you be caught.
Snowpulse backpacks
ABS backpacks

-Carry a Sat phone, or PLB. These devices will greatly assist you should you need outside help. Digital only cellular coverage is available in the general Whistler /Pemberton valley area only.

Sat phone (most useful)
Iridium Sat phones

Whistler SAR has PLB capacity and a receiver to home in on signals. The PLB must be registered, and sends signals directly to the nearest Rescue co-ordination center.(Victoria) It sends accurate GPS cordinates and also emits a homing frequency for local teams to pinpoint you position.
PLB 406Mhz

Allthough not as effective as a PLB this device sends a message via Satellite to a Texas monitoring center it will give approximate GPS co-ordinates.
Spot me beacon

-Avalanches are a matter of timing. There are certain times when the snow pack is stable and others when it’s quite unstable. Be patient and wait for things to stabilize. The most obvious signs of instability being recent avalanche activity , make sure you stop and look around for obvious clues.

-Access to the Garibaldi park should be checked with local ski patrol for current access routes.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

High Avalanche Hazard Whistler

A special bulliten has been issued by the Canadian Avalanche assoiciation concerning the fragility of this seasons snowpack after two seperate fatal accidents in out of bounds area's beyond the ski area boundry sign.

The current snowpack is unstable and unusual for the South Coast. Due to the presence of persistent weak layers, the conditions will not improve as quickly as we are used to on the coast. Don't let the fresh snow and brief periods of sunshine lure you into typical big slopes and steep chutes.

It's important to be patient and make conservative terrain choices for the time being.

Most avalanche professionals are "tiptoeing around", and many long time locals have said it's also a very "toucy and abnormal snowpack, and haven't seen anything like it in 30 years" and avoiding avalanche terrain alltogether, and this is certainly a warranted approach at least as this avalanche cycle peaks towards Sunday / Monday when conditions could easily go to extreme hazard when a large storm approaches.

The snowpack could be described as a mousetrap ready to snap. It might get your leg or your head.

Stick to simple, low-angle, slopes in the trees that are well away from avalanche paths and runouts.

Again, conditions are very touchy and triggering an avalanche is likely, especially in shallow rocky areas, steep convex rolls, and windloaded northerly aspects. Also noted from this mornings flight were numerous small size 1.5 below treeline.

It may be possible to trigger avalanches in areas that see infrequent activity, and also remote triggering is possible. Exercise extra caution and give yourself a wide margin of safety.

We are expecting conditions to rapidly deteriorate again on Saturday night with the arrival of an intense frontal system.

Official RCMP news release
Link to site-->>

Canadian Avalanche assoiciation
Link to site-->>

A special avalanche warning has been issued for the South Coast beginning on Thursday, January 1 until Monday, January 5. We are urging backcountry users to be very conservative in their decision-making at this time.

If you are not comfortable assessing avalanche conditions then you should consider enjoying the new snow in-bounds at a ski area.