Two overdue skiers travelling in Valhalla Park were found by Nelson Search and Rescue today. The pair, from the Castlegar/Robson area, were two days overdue but as it turns out, did not need help and continued to ski out on their own. Difficult snow conditions slowed their progress and their daily check-ins using a GPS tracking system were not being received for reasons unknown.
Chris Armstrong from Nelson Search and Rescue said the skiers were reported overdue by their check-in person. Using a helicopter, searchers located the skiers within an hour and a half as the friend knew where they were going.
The skiers explained to searchers that they had been pressing the OK signal daily on their GPS devices, but for reasons unclear to Armstrong, the messages were not received. As for their delayed return, the skiers had terrain issues as the snow conditions hardened so their skis were not working well, slowing their progress.
“The key thing is that they had a pre-planned route and left this with a contact person,” said Armstrong. That narrowed down the search area. “Valhalla Park is a large area to search.”
This is the second time search and rescue has received a call that involved issues with GPS tracking devices in Valhalla Park. There is potential for the steep rock walls to interfere with a GPS system. For Armstrong, this only amplifies why search and rescue urge recreationalists to always let people know their route plan and when to expect them back and not to rely solely on technology.
Last fall, two female climbers from Trail activated their devices after both fell into an alpine lake in the dark but their SOS signal was not received until 12 hours later.
Armstrong said the women had been climbing and ended up “benighted” (staying overnight unexpectedly).
“One fell from a 30 foot (9 m) cliff into an alpine lake and the other woman fell in trying to rescue her partner, both with their backpacks and climbing gear on,” Armstrong said. “It was dark and there was no shoreline to exit the lake due to the cliffs. Hikers nearby heard their screams, found a canoe and managed to paddle out to rescue the pair. They survived but we didn’t get the emergency message until 12 hours later.”
Search and rescue received a second call this week when Slocan Lake RCMP found a truck and sled trailer which had been sitting for two days at a trailhead in the Slocan Valley. RCMP couldn’t find a note on the vehicle, so they went to the registered owner’s home in Winlaw but couldn’t find a contact person to find out when he was expected back. RCMP called search and rescue. Armstrong said they followed the man’s sled tracks, then ski tracks by helicopter and found him on Monday morning at a “nice winter camp.”
“The big thing we have to realize is that technology is not fail safe,” said Armstrong. “It’s another tool but don’t rely on it solely; have another plan. People need to tell someone where they’re going and who to call. Leave a note with a vehicle stating where you are and when you’re suppose to come out. Have your ten essentials and be prepared to survive if something goes wrong.”
1. Flash light and spare batteries
2. Extra food and water
3. Extra clothing (rain, wind, water protection)
4. Navigational aids (map, compass, altimeter, GPS, chart, radio, mobile phone)
5. Fire starter
6. First aid kit
7. Emergency shelter
8. Sun protection
9. Pocket knife
10. Signalling device-whistle, beacon, radio, satellite phone