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Whistler Search and Rescue releases annual numbers

Team gets 55 calls, takes part in 30 searches and rescues

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Whistler Search and Rescue had a busy year in 2010, answering 55 calls or an average of just over one call per week. Some of those calls resolved themselves, while 30 Provincial Emergency Program numbers were assigned to active searches - a PEP number must be assigned for the call-out to be funded.

In some cases, searchers spent more than 10 days scouring the backcountry for lost people.

Brad Sills, manager of Whistler Search and Rescue, summed up the group's activities in 2010 for the Whistler Search and Rescue Society on Feb. 15.

According to the report, March was the busiest month with 11 calls, followed by April with six. While calls were down over the summer months, Whistler SAR took part in two massive searches for lost hikers - a 12-day search for Tyler Wright, who went missing in August while attempting to hike from Garibaldi Park to Vancouver; and a seven-plus day search for the couple Rachael Bagnall and Jonathan Jette, who were lost in early September while hiking the Place Glacier trail network north of Pemberton. Both searches came up empty.

The 30 calls that Whistler SAR answered in 2010 involved 42 missing individuals, 33 males and nine females. The search and rescues consumed 1,283 man-hours of volunteer efforts, or an average of over 40 hours per call. Some 23 searches required helicopter operations.

While the most common demographic for searches were males aged 18 to 29, there was an increase in the number of females and older people requiring rescues as well.

Two of the calls involved fatalities, not including the three hikers that are still classified as missing.

Searchers also put first aid to use. Of the calls requiring a medical evacuation, there were seven potential spinal injuries, two head injuries, eight fractured limbs and two chest injuries.

The biggest contributor to trauma was the snowmobiling sector. As well, there were three calls regarding ski mountaineers that involved illness or fatigue.

The biggest trend last year, according to the report, was the number of mutual aid calls. There were eight calls in 2010 where more than one SAR team was required.

"The complexity and manpower to successfully effect some of these SAR missions is increasing beyond the capabilities of single teams," wrote Sills. "The Tyler Wright search lasted 12 days and involved more than 200 searchers and an area probably five times that of Metro Vancouver. The Place Glacier Group search was also substantial with seven days of intensive search effort and teams from around the province."

In terms of activity, snowmobiling led the way with nine calls, followed by ski mountaineering with six and overdue skiers with four. Hikers, climbers and commercial operators each accounted for two calls. Single calls were related to avalanches, overdue snowboarders, workplace injuries, mountain biking and tourists.

The largest number of calls - six - was reported in the Powder Mountain area, followed by four in the Spearhead Range, three on the backside of Whistler, two on the Pemberton Ice Cap and two at Wedge Creek. Individual calls were made on Sproatt Mountain, 16 Mile Creek, Fitzsimmons Creek, the McBride Range, Mount Currie, Black Tusk, Place Glacier, Anniversary Glacier, Culliton Creek, Lucille Lake, Blackcomb Inbounds, Whistler Village and Bull Creek.

Sills commented that some trends were changing, while others - like the growing number of calls attributed to snowmobiling - would continue to rise. "We attended two separate and critical snowmobiler incidents on Saturday (Feb. 19) in the Powder Mountain/Brandywine area," reported Sills, which was in addition to another call the previous week where a snowmobiler fell into a crevasse.

 

 

 

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