Vancouver hiker’s experience has lessons for all 

Whistler Search and Rescue cautions never to hike in the backcountry alone

The Vancouver hiker, who was lost in the foggy backcountry south of Whistler for five days, didn’t make any major mistakes, according to Whistler Search and Rescue Secretary Ted Pryce-Jones.

But there are lessons for everyone in Samuel Black’s story, which ultimately had a happy ending when he was safely rescued from the Brandywine Provincial Park area on Thursday, Aug. 26.

Namely, Pryce-Jones said Black’s experience highlights the dangers of travelling into the backcountry alone, as well as the importance of carrying some form of communication, such as a cell phone or flares, as a way to draw attention to yourself.

The third lesson is to always be prepared for the unexpected.

"If you’re going up for a night, plan for three," said Pryce-Jones.

"You never know. This is the Coast Mountains. Weather can be in on you in 15 minutes, (changing conditions) from a clear day to completely clouded over."

Black’s story began on Friday, Aug. 20 when he set out on what was supposed to be an overnight hike.

An experienced hiker, he had scouted out his route two weeks beforehand and was confident in his path.

Once on the trail however, he caught sight of a ridge and veered off course. But he wasn’t banking on the clouds and fog, which quickly rolled in behind him.

"I thought it would be no problem to cover it (the ridge) and then it socked in," recalled the 39-year-old Black, who is an assistant philosophy professor at Simon Fraser University.

"And once you’ve left the trails and the cairns behind, it’s pretty tough to navigate. It was just a stupid thing. I should have never left the cairns behind when the weather was even threatening."

Though Black berated himself publicly after his rescue, Pryce-Jones isn’t nearly so hard on the hiker.

Scrambling off the beaten track to see new things is all part of backcountry hiking, he said.

"That’s what part of the wilderness experience is about," he added.

"You don’t go up there to walk a straight trail. You can do that in Stanley Park.

"I wouldn’t point a finger of blame on him in any sense of the word. This is not like some irresponsible skiers that go out of bounds at all.

"It was the weather. He was trapped by clouds in that glacier for days."

Search and Rescue volunteers extensively searched the area just above where Black was camped. They even sounded loud air horns right on the ridge above Black.


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