Editorial: Backcountry awareness in the summer

Living in the Elk Valley, we are fortunate to be surrounded by mountains and a vast amount of backcountry to explore.

Living in the Elk Valley, we are fortunate to be surrounded by mountains and a vast amount of backcountry to explore. Both locals and out-of-towners happily take advantage of the wilderness we’re lucky enough to call our backyard on a regular basis.

As we progress into the summer months, camping, boating and fishing trips become more and more enticing. People are lacing up their hiking boots, tuning up their mountain bikes, and loading their backpacks with granola bars, water and (hopefully) bear spray. But as you’re getting ready to head off into the great outdoors, you might be forgetting something.

During the winter, when the mountains are covered in snow, almost everyone realizes the precautions that must be taken. For some reason, once the snow disappears, so does the proper planning that should go into a visit to the backcountry. If you’re planning a trip this summer – even if it’s just for a day – be prepared and aware of the potential dangers.

It’s important to bring proper gear, equipment and clothing for all types of weather. Even though it’s summer, the mountains still cool down at night. Pack enough food and water for longer than you plan to be out – you never know what unexpected event might extend your trip. And most importantly, never travel alone, and always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

There’s nothing worse than a concerned friend or family member calling the RCMP in a panic because they weren’t sure what day or time you planned to be home. At the same time, it’s just as bad when no one alerts Search and Rescue when you really need it because you didn’t tell anyone you were leaving town.

The recent rescue of a Tour Divide race member by Fernie Search and Rescue last week serves as a reminder of how important it is to recognize when to make the call. This race member, a U.S. citizen, was injured and too afraid to call for help because of the potential cost. What he didn’t realize is that Search and Rescue in B.C. is run by volunteers and that rescuees are never charged for their services. Don’t ever hesitate to call Search and Rescue for a family member, friend, or for yourself out of embarrassment or fear of receiving a bill. As illustrated by last week’s rescue, those hardworking men and women are happy to help, and a rescue can generally go much smoother and faster if the call is made sooner rather than later.

So go out and have fun in the great outdoors this summer, just make sure you come home safely!