With two avalanche rescues last week, and warming conditions that will likely cause more during this admittedly bizarre winter season, the frustrating topic of backcountry preparedness is coming up again.
In the first avalanche, tourists, unfamiliar with the dangers of British Columbia’s wild landscape got themselves into trouble. They were young, ill-equipped, and in terrain they did not know how to navigate. It was by shear luck that they made it out in the condition that they did, with minor injuries.
Well, it was luck on their part. It was hard work and dedication on the part of the mountain safety team and search and rescue members who rescued them.
These men and women not only went out there to save these people’s lives, but have also put in the blood, sweat and tears for years, even decades, to develop the skills to make these rescues.
British Columbia has by far the largest contingent of volunteer search and rescue teams, volunteers, and receives more call outs than any other in the country.
B.C. has 84 SAR teams, with 2,500 members and 1,304 searches (in 2011). Quebec comes in second for the highest number of teams at 43, Nova Scotia is second for the highest number of members with 1,100, and Nunavut has the second highest number of searches at 163. Out of a total number of 1,933 searches conducted in Canada in 2011, B.C.’s SAR teams handled 1,304 of them. That’s staggering.
As is often the case with volunteers such as these, thanks are rarely necessary. They do it because of a passion and sense of responsibility, not for accolades.
But out of respect to their hard work and risk to their personal safety, I don’t think it is too much to ask that you not take unnecessary and foolish risks.
Backcountry adventure is the reason so many people flock to this part of the world, either on vacation or to live. And no matter how prepared and knowledgeable you are, there are always risks.
But if you are prepared before you go out there (and there are plenty of resources available out there to help prepare you), than at least the volunteers coming to help you know that you put as much effort into your own safety as they are.