Rescue staged from office
You know technology is creeping into all aspects of modern life when a mountain rescue can be accomplished without leaving the comfort of Canmore’s provincial building.
That was the situation on Monday (Oct. 15), when a backcountry enthusiast became lost on the back side of Yamnuska in Kananaskis Country.
Fortunately for the Calgary man, he found himself in a location with cell phone coverage and was able to put in a call for assistance to public safety specialists with Tourism, Parks and Recreation.
“At first he had no cell phone coverage,” said specialist Burke Duncan, “but he walked around until he got some coverage, then called to say he was lost. We had him take a picture with a phone and send it to us. After we looked at it, we recognized where he was and were able to tell him how to walk out.
“He had to do some extra walking, but he made it out safely. It was an office rescue.”
In all seriousness, though, the man’s predicament was a fairly common one in the Bow Valley and one Duncan said can be avoided with proper preparation, map reading ability and an understanding of trail descriptions.
“And people need to keep in mind that the sun is setting much earlier now,” he said. “You need to give yourself time to get out of an area before dark.”
Recently, public safety specialists have been less busy as October can be considered something of a shoulder season – between summer and winter backcountry users.
“Typically, there is a window where it quiets down,” he said. “But that window gets smaller every year.”
For that reason, area public safety specialists are already reminding people to check for avalanche warnings at www.avalanche.ca before heading out. “Ice climbers are just itching to get out there,” he said, “and there are already areas where there are early avalanche risks.
“Also at this time of year, early fall, some skiers are heading for Robertson Glacier. But there can be deposits of snow on lee slopes that are unreliable and there are drainages above small bowls that can be an early season hazard. Even a small avalanche can kill you.”
Duncan said ice climbers need to be aware that they may not be able to see snow above them and that wind can deposit unstable pockets of snow in unexpected places. As well, he said, early season snowpack can be thin, windblown, patchy and in a weak condition.
Last year, avalanche bulletins were upgraded to make them easier to read, with less text and more graphics and Duncan said overall, feedback has been very positive as for many people, the bulletins are easier to understand.
Some revisions are being made to the site again, said Duncan, but bulletins will begin being posted about Nov. 1, for Kananaskis and most other areas.
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