An experienced male from the Lower Mainland was rescued from Overlord Glacier on April 24 after spending the night trapped in the backcountry in whiteout conditions.
The skier contacted his brother at 9:30 p.m. on April 23 to tell him that he was wet and currently stuck in a whiteout on Overlord, and was digging in for the night. The brother passed that information along to the police and Search and Rescue, although with the whiteout conditions the SAR team was not able to begin their search until the following morning.
With the whiteout conditions persisting they flew a team to the cabin at Russet Lake to make inquiries of other backcountry travellers, but nobody had seen the individual. Two Search and Rescue team members then skied into the area where the man was believed to be and located him by sound.
"He was a very experienced ski mountaineer and ski tourer, he had done the (Spearhead Traverse) over 20 times previously, so he knew the route well, and it's my understanding that he has a history of adventure racing also," said Brad Sills of Whistler Search and Resecue.
"The problem with the whiteout conditions is that you can't see the trail, and when you can't see you can't travel in there. It's what we call the white room, because everything is completely white and navigation is very, very difficult."
After locating the man, who had been sleeping, the searchers warmed him up and skied down to the base of the glacier below the cloud line where they called in a helicopter just after noon. The male was treated at the Health Care centre and released.
Sills says they also got a call the previous night from snowmobilers trapped in a whiteout on the far side of Powder Mountain. Sills advised them by phone to either dig a snow cave to wait out the weather, or to use their GPS to carefully make their way back out. The snowmobilers self-rescued and the Search and Rescue team was not involved.
Whistler Search and Rescue has seen a surge in demand, with 17 calls in the past five weeks. Prior to that their numbers were low for the season, but now they are on the high side.
"It's been crazy, and the calls have been from right across the activity spectrum," Sills said. "We've had snowmobilers, mountaineers, out-of-bounds skiers and even a kayaker."
Sills suspects that the pent-up demand during the Olympics and Paralympics is partly responsible for the number of calls, as well as the abundance of new snow this spring.
"Search and Rescue is really just a numbers game, the more people out there the more chances that people are going to find themselves in trouble," he said.
That being said, Sills said backcountry users need to be aware of weather and the possibility of whiteout conditions when the weather changes - and adjust their plans accordingly. Whiteout conditions can persist for days at a time, and make travel dangerous.
Open liquor an issue during WSSF
While no serious incidents were reported, the RCMP handed out 110 tickets from open liquor and other drinking offences last Friday and Saturday, with each offence carrying a fine of $100.
According to Sergeant Shawn LeMay of the Whistler RCMP there were 50 liquor tickets on Friday and 60 on Saturday. As well, he says they handed out four tickets to individuals for urinating in public.
The RCMP also watched a partier light fireworks in the village, which is illegal without a permit. That person was fined under municipal bylaws.
And while the province was preparing to announce the toughest penalties for drinking and driving in the country, the RCMP continued to find impaired drivers. Over the last week (ending Tuesday), the RCMP handed out five 24-hour suspensions and arrested two men for impaired driving.
At 3:30 a.m. on April 22 the RCMP noticed a vehicle cross over the centre line, then nearly go into the ditch on the other side while trying to correct. They stopped the driver who subsequently provided two samples of .120, well above the legal limit of 0.08.
At 10:50 p.m. on April 26 the RCMP stopped a vehicle on Village Gate Boulevard, and the driver provided samples of 0.09 and 0.10.
Don't leave valuables in your vehicles
The RCMP are once again warning people to not leave any possessions inside of vehicles in any circumstances, after receiving 11 reports of theft from vehicles over the past week.