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post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 07:01 PM Thread Starter
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Default Research for magazine story on lost hikers in NS mountains

Hi all on this forum

I'm looking for people I can talk to for a Vancouver magazine story about the unique city phenomenon we have here, where people can take a bus to the mountains and get themselves in some trouble hiking not that far from civilization.

I'm interested in hearing whether your own experiences, any experiences you have had with lost hikers (searches, etc.) and your thoughts about whether anything needs to be done (or what) to lower the number of people who seem to get themselves into serious trouble.

I'm interested in all opinions. Yes, I need your name. (That's the way we work.) However, if you have information that you don't want to be linked to but that could be helpful for me doing research, I'd appreciate that.

My name is Frances Bula. I'm a well-known local writer, doing a 2,000-word story for Vancouver magazine. Cell is 604.812.6205, email is [email protected]. I'm especially interested in the most recent incident, with Liang Jin, in Hanes Valley.

Frances
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 05-13-2015, 10:02 PM
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Hey Frances!

I know your writing. I have grown up reading it in places like the Vancouver Sun.

I am a scientist by profession and I am aware of how perceptual bias can miss important statistics. So I have a couple of points for you to think carefully about:

First off, as a writer, you should be careful slinging around the overused term "unique". Certainly Vancouver is a large city, close to the mountains, but you can take a bus (albeit a Greyhound - not public transit) to Banff from Calgary and lose yourself in the Rockies just as easily as you can in Vancouver's Coast Mountains. The same goes for mountain towns the world over - Boulder, Jackson Hole, Bozeman, Chamonix, Queenstown all spring to mind.

Secondly, the "lost hiker" phenomenon seems to get a lot more attention than, say, boater rescues. North Shore Rescue mostly rescues hikers, skiiers and snowshoers lost on the North Shore. Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue, by contrast, mostly* rescues people on Harrison Lake who have run out of gas or been swamped by overloaded boats and/or high waves caused by afternoon winds. In a place like Prince George, a smaller city with less mountainous terrain close by, the lost people getting rescued tend to be ATVers, hunters, and mushroom pickers.

Maybe your article should look at all the ways that people can get in trouble in the backcountry, not just focus on hikers? It seems to me that lost hikers, and sidecountry skiiers, get media attention far out of proportion to their frequency in the actual numbers of rescues that go on in BC every year.

When you look at the total number of trips undertaken, and the proportion of rescues as a total proportion of trips, how does hiking come out? Are hikers getting lost at a higher proportion of all the trips done versus other backcountry pastimes? Or is the media focusing on lost hiker rescues while other, more risky sports get a pass? I'd really like to read some serious journalism that examines this.

I live in the Fraser Valley, and I see and hear about a bunch of risky backcountry behaviour that involves alcohol consumption, fishing, 4x4s, and ATVs. It seems, though, that if a local SAR team like Chilliwack Search and Rescue goes out and rescues some guy who was drinking heavily and ran his quad off the side of a logging road and broke his back, it never gets the media attention that someone phoning in a "I'm lost and cold" from the Grouse Grind does.

Search and rescue groups in the province are volunteer organizations that dependent on grants and donations for their funding. Some of these groups are better than others at getting their voices heard and at fundraising, but that doesn't mean that their specific types of rescues are the ones that are the most important in the sense of proportion of total SAR activity across BC nor in terms of total lives saved. It's more about the squeaky wheel getting the grease.


Cheers,
Drew Brayshaw

* I have heard it said that 90% of KHSAR's rescues are off the lake. You'd need to check this with them.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 12:49 AM
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I'd say the most important action that can be taken is education. Simple awareness of the hiking 10 essentials (which are applicable to most backcountry activities) can go along way to preventing these types of issues. I also think we're doing a great disservice to our kids by not getting them into the outdoors to experience and learn basic skills. Many schools have cut outdoor education programs, and little focus is given to the importance of these fundamental skills. I do a lot of work with the Outdoor Council of Canada which is one of many organizations working to make it easier and encourage getting our kids into the great outdoor. However as Dru mentions, it's important to not blow these events out of proportion. After all the most dangerous part of going into the backcountry is the drive there.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 01:42 AM
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The weekly incident summaries are a great way to see what is actually happening without any bias/filtering by the media:
http://www.embc.gov.bc.ca/em/incidents/incidents.html

One of the big challenges in covering this subject is that the negative events are so visible and quantifiable but the positive effects (improvements to mental and physical health, increased awareness of environmental issues, etc.) are very difficult to quantify.

Many poor decisions are made every day by people in Vancouver and a lot of them result in very expensive (for the taxpayer,) hospital stays or death. The poor decisions made by hikers get a disproportionate amount of attention.

All that said, increased education is important. The worst thing we can do is scare people about going into the wilderness. We need more people to be hiking.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 02:08 AM
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This sounds like a worthwhile story. I wouldagree with Frances that this really is a unique environment where local city buses are able to deliver you to trailheads that will take you into the mountains from a large metropolitan area. Sure there are smaller towns that are close to the mountains. There are metropolitan areas on the outskirts of various types of wilderness but not truly mountainous. It is a fairly unique situation when you consider the population, proximity to mountainous terrain, amount of available trails, ease of access, popularity of things like the Grouse Grind which lures people into a false sense of security. It all adds up to an environment that "may" result in an inordinate amount of "lost" hikers. It would be good to do some research on this.


The topic of North Shore lost hikers is a good story. Sure there are other reasons and other places that people get lost or hurt. There are likely a lot more hazardous things that you can do. But stories are not all written about the most hazardous pursuits, there are many other worthwhile topics. What I would like to see is solid research and accurate facts about our area. Like how many have become “lost” in the last 10 years. How many were eventually found alive? And how many unfortunately were not alive? How many have not been found? Uncover the common factors that lead to disappearances. Is it unpreparedness? Weather factors? Unfamiliarity with the area? These would be good things to know and report on. Perhaps we would all learn something from it and lives will be saved in the future. A well balanced story based on research and facts would be good to see.

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Last edited by tinman610; 05-15-2015 at 12:48 AM. Reason: darn copy and paste
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 10:30 AM
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Lions Bay search and rescue of Boy Scouts


http://bivouac.com/TripPg.asp?TripId=1463
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 02:31 PM
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I used to take the bus to access the mountains. I did so out of necessity, but it was handy for thru-hiking. It was when I got back to the city that the shit would sometimes hit the fan, turning the end of a great day in the mountains into something less.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 03:35 PM
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As others pointed out, I'd also emphasize education in the article. North Shore Mountains are unique in 2 respects: 1) Ease of access (take a bus from Phibbs exchange, ride a bike, etc) 2) Challenging micro-terrain (more than in other mountain areas, such as Rockies). Key that contributes to North Shore accidents is close proximity to ultra densely populated urban area. Everybody wants to go out, not everybody know what they are doing. As overall population grows, number of hikers and thus potential accidents can only grow. Others pointed to school outdoor education programs for young generations. I'd also add joining organized outdoor organization as excellent choice for Coastal newcomer. Lots of people gravitate to meetups, because they are free - but meetups are unstructured and have many other drawbacks. Better choice are reputable hiking clubs (such as North Shore Hikers) that have been around for a long time, have active members that spent good part of their lives in these mountains and have loads of experience.

Hanes crossover (Liang Jin accident) is excellent case study. Both sides - Grouse and Lynn - are supper accessible. Initial wide paths lull hiker into false safety and he just wants to keep on going. But terrain changes so rapidly; roots, rocks, low cloud comes out of nowhere and before you know you can get in trouble. Over-reliance on technology, such as GPS, can also be a factor due to specific terrain. I know off experienced and capable person who later scaled many Coast peaks that got lost coming back from Lynn Lake, had to spend a night and eventually be rescued.

By properly emphasizing these points article can raise general awareness and lower chances for such accidents. Other aspect worth mentioning are SAR organizations for all the good they are doing but generally operate on volunteer, non-profit basis.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 04:08 PM
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I think Zeljkok has pretty much hit the nail on the head. We have a large population in Vancouver who are unfamiliar with what is necessary to hike/snowshoe/ski tour in the North Shore mountains safely. Education and knowledge gained travelling with more experienced companions is mandatory....something that most people on this board have or are here to learn.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinman610 View Post
This sounds like a worthwhile story. I wouldagree with Frances that this really is a unique environment where local citybuses are able to deliver you to trailheads that will take you into themountains from a large metropolitan area. Sure there are smaller townsthat are close to the mountains. There are metropolitan areas on theoutskirts of various types of wilderness but not truly mountainous. It isa fairly unique situation when you consider the population, proximity tomountainous terrain, amount of available trails, ease of access, popularity ofthings like the Grouse Grind which lures people into a false sense ofsecurity. It all adds up to an environment that "may" result inan inordinate amount of "lost" hikers. It would be good to dosome research on this.


The topic of North Shore lost hikers is a goodstory. Sure there are other reasons and other places that people get lostor hurt. There are likely a lot more hazardous things that you cando. But stories are not all written about the most hazardous pursuits,there are many other worthwhile topics. What I would like to see is solidresearch and accurate facts about our area. Like how many have become “lost”in the last 10 years. How many wereeventually found alive? And how many unfortunately were not alive? How many have not been found? Uncover the common factors that lead todisappearances. Is it unpreparedness? Weather factors? Unfamiliarity with the area? These would be good things to know and reporton. Perhaps we would all learn somethingfrom it and lives will be saved in the future. A well balanced story based on research and facts would be good to see.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 04:44 PM
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I agree with zeljkok. Lots of uneducated, unfit people in the north shore mountains.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 05:01 PM
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This is certainly a perception, but it goes back to my original question. Are the people who hike less prepared and less well-educated about hazards than people who ATV, or who boat, or who ski?

The real difference I see is one of entry cost. You need to rent or buy a boat to boat, you need an ATV to go quadding, you need a gun or bow to hunt, you need skis to ski or a board to board, etc. But you can set off on a hike in flipflops. Low entry cost. Everyone has footwear already.

The other issue is training. There's now mandatory training to use small boats, though not yet canoes or kayaks. Hunting requires licenses, firearms require certificates. Most skiiers that go beyond resorts have some decent level of experience already.

Quads cost at least few thousand up front, but judging by what I have seen on logging roads, some people think nothing of having their 10-year old drive a quad by himself.

Mushroom picking is another backcountry pastime that has basically no barrier to entry and requires no special gear. And it is possibly easier than normal to get lost while paying attention to the ground instead of landmarks.

Snowshoeing, like hiking, has a low barrier to entry. There's a perception that the average snowshoer is less experienced and knows less about snow stability than the average skiier. Is it true, or is it snobbery? Seems like more skiiers and snowmobilers get rescued and caught in avalanches than snowshoers do.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 07:17 PM
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Regarding cost, yes thats true. We need to make it a widely known that the ten essentials are, uh, essential. I mean I guess the ten essentials arent that expensive, but it would be excellent if the kind of people who get rescued by SAR thought before they left "I better not go, i don't have all the ten essentials yet."

About training, the public perception is that you need no training to go on a hike. SAR groups are doing a good job of getting rid of that notion, but i guess there's only so much they can do. We the community should help change the public perception to that you do actually do need to know what you're doing when you go into the backcountry. Specifically, anyone attempting a hike should know map and compass navigation, basic overnight survival skills (staying warm and dry, treatment for hypothermia/wilderness first aid) and decision making skills. Personally I learned these skills firstly in Scouts then more as an adult in the army as a paratrooper, then even more in professional guide training. Obviously I dont expect everyone heading up Elk to be a former paratrooper and professional guide, so how do you all think the masses should be educated? Outdoors shops offering basic wilderness courses would be a good idea, but I think maybe most of these complacent people would think "I don't need to spend money on that, I can walk in the woods no problem." It'll be tough to convince people they need training.

Examples given:

http://www.coquitlam-sar.bc.ca/2015/...ar-pitt-river/

People rescued within shouting distance of Grant Narrows parking lot. Map and compass, basic paddling skills and hypothermia prevention and treatment would have resulted in SAR not being called out. Also, people lost in a regional park with obvious wide trails everywhere. Basic navigation training needed.

http://www.coquitlam-sar.bc.ca/2013/...n-eagle-ridge/

People lost due to snow. If they knew what they were doing they would have known there was snow at that elevation.

Disclaimer for this is I'm not in SAR and don't know the exact details. But I think that most people are themselves to blame for the trouble they are in.

All in all for this, hiking should not be looked on as a low-barrier, easy entry activity. You need the right training and equipment. I don't know how we can spread this though.


For snowshoeing, i can provide personal insight. Last year I was the snowshoe guide at a local ski resort. Granted, we didnt have enough snow to actually do anything. But I agree with the idea that ski tourers and backcountry skiers are definitely more experienced and competent than snowshoers. I guess it's because skiers go more places than snowshoers. No one snowshoes the garibaldi neve. Also, ive noticed that people who do an activity for the sake of an activity are generally more competent. Backcountry skiers are in search of mad pow, snowshoers are in search of nice photos for facebook. Less rescues on Slesse than eagle ridge because climbers are looking for awesome rock, and hikers on eagle ridge just want to walk their dogs.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2015, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by brandonportcoquitlam View Post
how do you all think the masses should be educated?
We need to get this stuff back into schools. Every child should have a chance to learn basic skills to enjoy the outdoors. It doesn't have to be a lot, but adding an element of outdoor education to the curriculum would be a good start. We're raising our kids to be brittle and never experience difficult or challenging situations, it is any wonder that people are getting in over their heads? Mother Nature doesn't give a gold star for effort.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 05-16-2015, 11:21 PM
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What's on page 2 and 3?
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