Sunset was 8:18 pm last night, by August 31st it will be 7:58 pm. Even then, that doesn’t mean it isn’t dark in the trees much earlier. As we head into the fall, darkness has a tendency of creeping up on unwary and under-prepared hikers, resulting in the need for rescue.
Last night, three hikers headed out for Dog Mountain on Mount Seymour. These hikers were woefully underprepared, without light or map. When darkness fell, they did their best to follow the trail out, but ended up off-route in the area of Suicide Bluffs. With massive cliffs, and complex terrain, this is not a great area to be stranded without light. Now, to their credit, once they lost the trail they stopped moving and called for help. This is 100% the responsible and correct course of action. (See CTV News Coverage; CBC News Coverage)
When you get lost, stay put and call for help early, DO NOT keep moving. If you don’t have cell reception, count on that responsible person you told where you are going to get ahold of SAR once you are late. We do not charge for rescue, and their is no punishment – thus there is no reason not to call early. A little embarrassment is a small price to pay to make it out alive. Also, trust us, many of our members volunteer with search and rescue because they know first hand what an important service it is.
SAR volunteers do not mind these quick access and escort calls when they come in early, a location is available, and the weather is good. That said, they are unnecessary and can be very taxing on a already very busy rescue organization. Also, there is always the risk that the location is not available and the weather is not good. This vastly increases risk to rescuers and subjects alike. So what is the answer?
We are not asking everyone to carry a 40 pound search and rescue backpack on every day hike, but we do ask that individuals inform themselves before they head out and carry a minimum amount of gear based on that preparation. So what info should you know before you hit the trails? See below:
Route information (how long will it take, hazards, print a map and put it in a ziplock bag, buy a map for the area, etc) … this is a good spot to start writing out a quick trip plan to leave with someone responsible
Sunset – You can check it online, but remember it gets dark earlier in the trees
Weather – fog and rain can make route finding hard and adds slip hazards
Ability of members in the hiking party – plan for the slowest member
With that information, plan for the worst case. This preparation will help you stay out of trouble. That said, always Carry the Ten Essentials, with a flashlight or headlamp being a key part of every trail adventure. Trust me, if you carry the Ten Essentials, you will thank us if you ever get lost or injured while enjoying the outdoors!
Check out North Shore Rescues’ Education Page and/or AdventureSmart for more information on how to enjoy your outdoor activity safely.