Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A chronology of choices

Chronology of Choices During 6 Days Missing

Sam Black

·        Dayhiked to Brandywine Mountain 2 weeks earlier. Detected what seemed to be a passable ridge in the direction of Mount Cayley (which I thought was called Powder Mountain). That day, I took a trail up the right side of the valley up to high ground skirting by Metal Dome and then cutting left across a granite face to Brandywine Mountain. Returned that day via the ridge and talus slope on the left (westerly) side of the valley.
·        A “clear ridge” for my skill and equipment level means no technical climbs, and minimal snow on level ground.
·        Indicated my route to Randy, and left instructions to call Police if I am not back on Saturday night – explaining that this would be the result of a broken bone. (I had not anticipated losing the route.)

·        Hike to a site in view of Mount Cayley (near heliskiing pads), after ascending the talus slope on the left (west) side of the valley to gain Brandywine mt.
·        Crossed a bit of snow – at level grade en route. Took a look at an enormous glacier/snowfield without venturing onto it.
·        I knew the weather was changing but did not alter my plans for a tent site location. The skies were actually clearing on Fri night, and 4 weeks earlier I had descended from Brew Mountain in rain. I expected to get some rain on Saturday. Not a big deal. I did not anticipate that the ridge, and all reference points would be totally obscured by fog (very dumb).

·        Wake up early, visibility restricted to about 10 meters, heavy rain.
·        Pack up and start heading back along the ridge I walked in.
·        I could see a valley to my right that I guessed it was leading to Shovelnose creek. Decided to avoid it. I did not want to try a bushwhack out a different valley from the one I had come up because I was worried about twisting an ankle in the rains; being left unable to walk; while also being invisible from the air.
·        I veered leftwards (east?) trying to find a ridge that would take me back toward Brandywine mt – where there are cairns and a boot cut trail down to Brandywine valley.
·        I crossed some snow again (about 20 meters) on level ground. This snow was high above Brandywine Glacier – although I could not see the glacier below at the time because visibility was about 10 feet. After crossing the snow, I tried following a ridge to my right (south). I was scared to continue on that ridge however. The rocks were now slick with rain and lichens. Continuing would be risky and I was not sure the ridge would lead me out, or even lead to a spot level enough to pitch a tent. Given the very wet rock, I was worried about getting stranded on a section of ridge where I could not set up my tent. This was a problem because the rain was pelting down by now, and the wind blowing. I thought hypothermia was a real possibility if I didn’t get out of the elements and into my bag. Passing a night without cover would be difficult.
·        I partially set up my tent under an overhang that was the only level terrain on the ridge. It was too narrow for the tent to expand to its full width. The overhang stopped some of the rain, and also would shield me from falling rock. I could hear rocks falling. They were actually breaking off from the peak due west from me (where I had come from) which was disintegrating in the heavy rains. (Martin has my photo of boulders strewn on Brandywine Glacier. Those boulders actually fell on Saturday and Sunday.) At the time I could not see where the rocks were falling from. But the earth shook under their tremendous impact. I hoped their source was not above me.
·        All my clothes (2 short sleeve synthetics, 1 long sleeve nylon, 1 fleece, 1 shorts, 1 hat and gloves, 2 pair synthetic socks) are by now soaked in the 100% humidity – except for my underwear and a spare fleece hat all was wet including my bag. I went into my mummy bag and put on my fleece on to try drying it. But I could not generate enough body warmth to heat it. After a 1 hour I take it off. From then on I wear only underwear when I remain in my bag. I start rationing my emergency food supply of 1 1/2 bagels, 2 power bars, and 1 can of tuna.

·        Still raining hard, and almost no visibility. For the morning (?), I can’t see enough to figure out where I am. Time passes. Rocks keep falling. I take down my tent and suit up to see if I can push further south on my ridge. It again seems impassable to the south. The thought occurs that I might not get out of the jam I am in. I snap some photos for friends and family just to be safe. It clears a bit later and I snap some photos of Brandywine Glacier, which is visible to my right (north). I later hear a chopper. I jump out of the tent and grab my red mummy bag to signal it. I watch it come up through the valley west (?) of my site. It shoots over the glacier at top speed about 500 meters west of me. I am not sure if it is searching for me. I stay out of my tent for 10 minutes, hoping it will return, and I will be able to signal that I’m OK to family and friends. It does not return. I get back into the tent. My bag is drenched from the rain, and I am freezing from standing outside in underwear. The clearing soon disappears and visibility returns to 10 feet.

·        I recognize that my site of the last 2 nights is difficult for SAR to detect. I have heard aircraft high above the cloud cover, and so I believe that SAR is indeed looking for me. I am also hopeful of finding a different route out – if I can just see the top of Brandywine Mountain or Mount Fee. I wait for a clearing in the sky, and pack up when the Brandywine Glacier is visible. (A clearing gives about 500 meters of visibility downwards to the Glacier. I took photos during periods of maximum visibility which Martin has. Maximum visibility seemed to start at 10 a.m. and last a few hours.) I pack up and head north (?) and then East (?) hugging the right side of a steep slope. I then start climbing sharply up a slope that I hope is either the backside of Brandywine Mountain or will lead there. I can’t see the summit, and can’t see any surrounding peaks. The rains return in earnest. I despair of getting to the summit or pass that day. I set up tent on what I hope is an exposed site, visible to SAR, on an open slope in a patch of heather. The grade is considerable, and there is a drop off at the foot of my tent. I am worried about sliding over the edge in my sleep. But it is the flattest patch around. I have to sleep diagonally in the tent to try to avoid from sliding down. The exposed site is a lot windier, and I am colder than before.
·        Later that day I hear aircraft high over head. I come out from the tent to signal but they are totally obscured by cloud. Leaving the tent, and standing outside naked in the rain leaves me very cold. Even opening up my mummy bag or the tent fly on the tent chills me. Yet the aircraft are above cloud and can’t see me. After repeating this exercise several times, I decide to rig a flag (a tan and white shirt) on a ski pole. I waive it whenever aircraft fly over head and sound close by, while remaining zipped inside my bag.
·        Eventually this seems to alert a craft, who I sense has slowed down. I jump out of the tent. I spot a chopper, and grab my red mummy bag and start waving it. The chopper alters course (it had been west of me in the direction of the valley) and heads slowly in my direction. It keeps flying towards me for about 5 seconds (?). It is about 200 m away or less. I believe I’ve been spotted, and my first reaction is to signal thumbs up so that the crew communicates to friends and family that I am OK. (I have been worrying a lot about the toll this must be taking on Randy and Laura, and praying they have not told my parents, who are somewhat fragile.) As soon as I signal I’m OK, the chopper veers away (to its left or north along Brandywine Glacier). I feel some regret since it is pretty miserable outside. I wonder if I should have indicated to the pilot that I was desperate and needed to be airlifted out. But that would have been dishonest. I remain standing in the rain watching for the chopper’s return. A grey chopper then shot northwards, further west of where I’d seen the previous one, traveling at a very high speed. I reckoned it held crews to repair the heli pads and was a private operator not interested in lost hikers.
·        *** I knew the chopper I had seen was SAR. It was painted red and seemed identical tp the choppers that patrol the West Coast trail – which I have done twice in foul weather in April. My expectations and information about SAR choppers and practices reflects the West Coast trail. That route is normally patrolled by air. But all hikers are warned that they will not be airlifted from the trail unless they have suffered a serious physical trauma (e.g. a broken bone). It is furthermore made explicit that being cold, tired, or wet are not grounds for being airlifted. I believed this was normal practice for all SAR operations. (This mistaken belief would soon prove fateful.) In fact, one year Randy and I had been on the West Coast trail in April. Once we hiked in the trail was closed on account of receiving the tail end of a hurricane. We were cold and soaked. We heard choppers continuing to patrol the trail. But we reasoned they were not looking for us (they were not in fact).
So here is what I inferred on Monday: SAR now knows my exact position, and knows that I’m OK (they saw the thumbs up). They have not tried to airlift me because they believe I am capable of walking out on my own once the weather breaks, and they want me to walk out. At this time I thought I could walk out, and reasoned that I was at most 1 hour from the way I came in – something that could be accomplished in good weather without much trouble provided I set some food aside. I totally stopped eating as a result convinced I should save my stores until the weather broke. In fact, I thought I was a good deal less than an hour away from the ridge since I had been moving very slowly on Saturday on account of the wet rock and lack of visibility. I reckoned that SAR would perhaps occasionally monitor my whereabouts to make sure nothing went dramatically wrong, but that I was OK and very close to where I needed to be. I felt very optimistic at this point, and very grateful that you had sent a chopper to make contact with me. I attributed most of the high volume of ongoing aircraft activity from then on to heli skiing operations preparing their winter sites (some of which I had encountered in the area), or government avalanche crews. Since I believed you had my coordinates, I didn’t think you’d be sending out more crews.
  This chain of inferences may seem a bit whacky. On the other hand, it was premised on the extraordinary coincidence that a SAR chopper altered its course just as I began to waive my red mummy bag, and headed in my direction. It then sharply veered off at precisely the instant I signaled using the thumbs up. I now understand that in the event the crew had seen me they would have signaled back using their lights. But I’m afraid that your average hiker does not know the protocols for communicating with choppers. In fact I suspect the entire SAR protocols are a bit opaque to ordinary hikers. They are not described in any hiking books I have read. Significantly, the SAR protocols differ between regions in the same province (e.g. the West Coast Trail, and the Whistler region). The West Coast Trail protocols are the ones I was familiar with.

·        I pack up and try to hike up the peak again (south). Give up again in frustration. It is becoming an increasing technical climb as I gain altitude, and I figure that even if I make the summit I will have to descend similar terrain on the other side. The rain and wind are unrelenting. I hike with my pack. I will not leave the tent to explore, since the tent and bag are necessary for survival, and visibility periodically drops down to less than 10 feet. 
·        Set up tent again in same spot where I thought I’d been spotted on Monday.
·        This was fortunate. Soon after, there is a deluge lasting all afternoon and through the evening. This is by far the most intense rain of the trip. It is like nothing I have ever camped in – including the trip during the closure of the West Coast Trail -- and I am fearful that I will be washed away in a flood or landslide. Amazingly, the volume of rain falling remains steady all night. I stretched the tarp taught using rocks, and it sounds like a snare drum inside. It is difficult to sleep during the awesome violence of the storm.

·        Woke up praying for clear skies. Laura gigs on Wed night, and Randy and I usually meet for beer to hear her. Hoped I’d be able to meet them, and surprise Laura at her gig. (Remember: I am thinking that I’ve been spotted on Mon, and the information has gone back that I am OK but socked in. I expected Randy and Laura to be monitoring the situation, worried until I came out, but basically keeping things together while waiting out the weather system in Vancouver.)
·        The weather remained bad.
·        During a two hour clearing (visibility 500 hundred meters) I hiked down the mountain (north) towards Brandywine Glacier. I believed that moving leftwards (west) along the glacier was the only remaining exit. There was nothing passable to the right (where the chopper hovered that eventually pulled me out), and the route south over the peak was impassible. There was no option left for getting out than to drop down. I believed I had come from the left (west?) and that my ridge was only a few hundred meters away in that direction. I had crossed the snow much higher up the glacier where the crossing was level and short. But I thought it would be difficult to return to that crossing since I had tried and failed on Sat and Sun to get back that way over the wet rock. 
·        I still could not see any peaks and figured that without better visibility I might as well stay put. I set up the tent again on a flat rock outcropping now about 30 m above the glacier.
·        It was cold enough that night that I could not sleep for the first time on account of the temperature. My body was no longer putting out enough heat to keep my bag warm. I figured the cold indicated the skies had cleared. I got out of my tent, and stood outside under brilliantly lit stars. I remained outside until I began to shiver badly.
·        I resolved to be up at daybreak to make use of the change of weather.

·        The sun is hot despite the fact that it is about 5:00 a.m. I eat my last power bar and half bagel, set my clothes out on the rocks for drying, and take the tarp off the tent. I expect that drying everything out will considerably lighten the pack. Dry socks and boots, along with dry rock greatly improve my footing. (The numbness in my feet from the wet and cold had made me reluctant to trust footholds, and there are no friction holds on wet rock.) I spend an hour or more just drying off and warming up. This is the first heat I had felt since Friday.
·        I had tried to do leg exercises in the tent each day to prevent cramping. But my legs are rubbery from being confined to my bag, and the lack of food. (Again, since I had no dry clothes, and it rained more or less constantly the entire time, and the wind was often severe, I could not leave my mummy bag, except when packing up camp.)
·        I carefully make my way to the lip of the glacier. I had hoped to hug the rock wall rather than climb onto the glacier. But the rockwall is impassable going left (west). I see many crevasses on the glacier. The grade is steep where the glacier separates from the mountain. Most worrisome is a large crevasse directly north from me, about 25 m down into the glacier bowl. I hope I can traverse leftwards (west) without sliding down the bowl. This looks risky. On the other hand, I feel there is no alternative, and that I must be close to the ridge out. (Why else would SAR leave me in the tent during the torrential downpour of the last few days?) Also a new front is developing in the west. I am desperate not to get socked in again for another week, without any food. I hoist myself onto the glacier, and dig in the heels of my boot. I move along the lip but slide after a few steps. Very quickly I am hurtling into the glacier bowl towards the crevasse I had hoped to avoid. I try to keep my legs in front me while sliding. The crevasse comes up very quickly. As I go over its mouth I can see that its blue walls that taper downwards for about 15 feet, leading to a boulder field of green granite. The thought flashes that I should by all rights be crashing down onto that granite, either broken up or waiting to die at the bottom of a chasm that I could not climb out from. Instead, I hurdle over the width of the crevasse, land with my left leg on the opposite side, and stand up with a full pack on one leg. I estimate the width of the crevasse at about 3 feet. I could not span it standing still. But I am moving so fast that this estimate may be unreliable. (I would welcome accurate information here about the width of the glacier.) My crossing of the crevasse seems inexplicable, and deeply shakes me up (and has continued to shake me up).
·        I continue with my plan to move leftwards along the glacier. I see crevasses in the distance. But the glacier surface is level. The crevasses are exposed. I have about 200 m to walk, and hope to peg a route that allows me to avoid them. A chopper enters the valley and hovers over the glacier. I signal it, and stop walking. The chopper was SAR I believed because it was painted red. It hovered near a peak at the north side of the glacier. I reasoned that the crew is monitoring the situation to make sure that I continued along what I thought was the correct route out. They continue to hover about 400 m away, and I continue to walk quite slowly in a south west direction (?) hoping to get off the glacier at the base of the mountain that had been crumbling earlier that week, getting back onto rock. I was mentally shaken up at this point, but felt like I had enough steam to descend Brandywine Mountain. I wasn’t going to ask to be airlifted, but felt very comforted by the chopper’s presence – which I assumed was monitoring to ensure I remained on course, and found the cairns before the next front hit. The chopper made a pass towards me as I began to move again. As it approached I could see the crew motioning violently that I should stay put. I froze. The chopper rounded the glacier, and then dropped Braden onto the glacier to join me. I was pretty shaken by the crevasse, and recall how much his jovial manner put me at ease. In another few minutes I was taken aboard. 

Part of these events unfolded as they did on account of the extraordinary situation in which a copter turned to head in my direction at the precise moment I began to waive my sleeping bag, and then veered off to leave the glacier valley at precisely the time when I flashed a thumbs up. My determination to walk out, and my confidence in the feasibility of that course stemmed from the mistaken belief that I had been located by SAR on Monday, and that SAR was keen to see me take a shot at getting myself out on my own steam.

I certainly don’t hold SARS responsible for my errors and misapprehensions. I have nothing but admiration for their efficiency, and gratitude for their having saved my life. (I think it is virtually certain I would have not have made it out on my own steam, either because I was heading off course, or another system was moving in; there was also a risk – difficult for me to assess -- that I would have stumbled onto a crevasse as I traversed the glacier.) 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spring in Whistler

With the snow melting away slowly more people will be out and about in the valley. Hiking and travelling in the back country of Whistler.

Update May 22, 2015:
Quite a bit of snow around north facing above 5000ft, south facing trails are dry, and in good condition, snow above 5500ft

Snow above 5000ft is disappearing quickly. Our current alpine snowpack has had lots of melt up high after a hot stretch of weather in early May.  Snowpack is currently isothermal for the most part. Snowbase is currently at 69cm, at Pig alley and creeks and rockfaces have melted out.

Spring in Whistler 

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 expedite your rescue.

Ambulance: Air ambulance service is available throughout the Valley if your at a site that they can easily land. Available 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. It is of utmost critical importance to be able to communicate to the outside world for assistance. 

Choices best first
1)Sat phone /Personal Locater Beacon/ Delorme Inreach
2)VHF Radio /Cell Phone.
3)Spot ME (the only problem here is you can'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 place marks, 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. It is usually a series of bad decisions that leads most people into trouble.

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 care full, and not take extra risks toward the end of the day, in bad weather, high avy conditions, or in remote locations.

The essentials

0.Communication Equipment
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1. Map/ GPS
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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, mountain bike maps are excellent with contours  and show almost every 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 acquired a position in a open area first. Altimeters are useful 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 back country -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 16° 52'  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:
Unless you plan on eating squirrel stew, or pack rat flambe. 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. Snow blindness feels like getting sand thrown in your eyes. 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 back country, 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. A good quality 4-6" hunting knife can be a lifesaver.

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 back country  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  BPA free reusable water bottles wide-mouth bottles. Some folks use other containers such as old plastic pop bottles. Be careful they don't crack and/or leak, and they may have BPA. 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
30-50 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.
RESCUE MAY NOT BE POSSIBLE!! Prepare to be self sufficient.

If you require assistance dial 911..Whistler SAR is available through Whistler RCMP.