Search and rescue team gets a cold lesson on winter camp-out

Nine search-and-rescue volunteers woke up with all their ninety toes after a recent winter camp.

After a cold night camped out in hand-built winter shelters

Nine search-and-rescue volunteers woke up with all their ninety toes after a recent winter camp.

Building a winter shelter is a key test for new recruits on Houston’s search and rescue team, says coordinator Frank McDonald, and a challenge they all look forward to.

When they set out March 23 to a high point about 30 km down Equity Mine Road, the group expected lows between -10 C and -15 C. Everyone carried food, a shovel, and fire-starting gear—the sort of set-up snowmobilers or skiers might have if they got lost.

McDonald said  everyone camped 50 to 100 metres apart and dug in for the night in different ways. Some shovelled out tree wells and threw tarps over top. Others built lean-to’s by a fire.

“Most of them realized the energy spent maintaining a fire overnight meant more energy was wasted than crawling into a sleeping bag and hopefully staying warm,” he said.

One person built a snow cave, a shelter McDonald says requires too much forethought and time to use in a real emergency, noting that it can take hours for the snow mounds to settle.

For new recruit Tim Van Leeuwen, the March 23 test was his first winter camp-out.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said, adding that next time he’ll do at least one thing differently—bring a wider shovel.

When the sun rose on the cold campers, McDonald said they found the best warm-up was to simply get up and stomp around.

With blood flowing again, they started on compass drills (difficult when you need to pace your steps in snowshoes) and an avalanche rescue.

For the rescue, McDonald buried a dummy with a beacon stuck on “send.” The team honed in and dug it out using beacons and probes.

McDonald says beacons are easy for anyone to use, but it’s worth trying one out before an emergency.

“They come with directions, but the best thing to do is practice,” he said. “I’ve done it in my backyard—get someone to hide a beacon and go out and try to find it.”


Just Posted

Giesbrecht found guilty of second-degree murder

Murder is only rational conclusion from evidence, Judge says

Fire ban back in effect for Northwest Fire Centre region

Starting May 24, both Category 2 and Category 3 prohibitions will be in place

Convicted animal abuser Catherine Adams to return to B.C. court in July

Catherine Adams is under a 20-year ban on owning animals, from a 2015 sentence in Smithers

Good job boys

Oakley (L) and Storm sold lemonade in Houston to raise money to… Continue reading

The north, rural areas deserve own ICBC rates, says Houston council

Matter to be considered at provincial convention this fall

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parent’s cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Most Read