Nice weather in recent days is drawing more hikers out onto the trails at Golden Ears Provincial Park, prompting a safety reminder from the local search team and an outdoor enthusiast.
Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue members have been at Alder Flats and Evan’s Valley in recent weeks, and watched a number of avalanches coming off the high ridges that have been, what search team leader Rick Laing describes as, “impressive and awe-inspiring.”
But while he continues to be wowed by the power of Mother Nature, he noted the danger to most local hikers remains low – depending on what parts of the park people are venturing into.
“For the most part, we don’t have too much concern with avalanche danger,” Laing said, “as most of the high-risk areas are out of reach for the casual day hiker. Where the dangers lie are obviously in the higher alpine – such as Golden Ears, which doesn’t see as much use due to access time and the park gate hours.”
Evan’s Valley is another high potential area for avalanches. Those alpine areas are currently considered as “moderate” danger, rising to “considerable” later this week as the warm weather continues to melt the snow pack, Laing said.
“People travelling into the mountains need to have both the proper equipment and proper training for travelling in and through avalanche terrain,” he advised.
Even while travelling in treeline areas, proper equipment and the knowledge to use it is important, Laing encouraged.
Depending on snow conditions, footwear might include either snowshoes or micro spikes for safe travel on trails.
And, Laing said, hikers should always check for current conditions and make themselves aware of travel routes, which includes checking for avalanche danger updates online at avalanche.ca.
Local outdoor enthusiast Ron Paley was up to Alder Flats and the Lookout in Golden Ears on Saturday and shared a similar warning, having heard and seen at least four avalanches during a 4.5-hour, 14.2 km trek half way up to the summit.
“We watched from a distance, four good avalanches that happened while we had a break in the sunshine,” Paley said.
“The avalanches were medium size and were hard to see because of shade and sunlight against the mountain. You could definitely hear them,” he said, noting he made the trek with fellow West Maple Ridge residents and fellow outdoor enthusiasts Pam and Brian Smith.
Not surprising, they encountered snow and ice in the upper region of their hike, and were grateful to have their crampons with them.
“Good to have with you just in case,” Paley said.
Starting out of the East Canyon parking lot at 9 a.m., he described the temperatures as cool, encountering their first sections of ice and spots of deep snow about six kilometres in. But by the time they reached Alder Flats, and took the further 20-minute trek over to the Lookout, he said the sun was high in the sky and temperatures had risen to 12C.
“Beyond [that point] the snow conditions get worse,” Paley said, noting they weren’t willing to trek further. “From our location we were safe to watch any avalanches that were happening… I always make sure we stay safe, whether it’s just me or people with me.”
He recommended all hikers carry liquids and enough supplies in case they are injured and need to spend the night.
“Just be sensible and plan your trip. Always make sure you leave a detailed map of where you are going, and leave it with someone who will know when you are expected back,” he said.
“People don’t realized conditions can change anytime. Layer up your clothing for the conditions,” Paley added, also suggesting participation with outdoor clubs, such as the Ridge Meadows Outdoor Club, is helpful.
“I am a member. They have many experienced people who can help you learn safety… By doing your part you prevent endangering our local Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue members. They are a dedicated SAR group that always have your back.
“I remember while building the Golden Ears emergency shelter back in late September 2002, how conditions can change. People below were enjoying their sunny day and we had a freak snowstorm come in. Mother Nature always lets you know who the boss is,” Paley said.
“Enjoy the backcountry for its beauty but remember, go prepared!”
In the meantime, the outdoor club is reportedly looking for volunteers to assist with trail work in Golden Ears Provincial Park. Those interested can contact Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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