With summer just around the corner, many residents may be thinking about throwing on a pair of shoes and heading out for a hike in the great outdoors.
But with the warmer weather and more hikers – both inexperienced and experienced – heading out into the wilderness, that often means a higher number of calls for Metchosin Search and Rescue.
From January to April of this year, the team has responded to a couple of calls regarding a stranded hiker on Mount Finlayson and a missing person in Esquimalt.
While it’s been relatively quiet so far, the team expects to be busier in the coming months.
“Summer is busy,” said search manager Jack Buchanan. “We get quite a few stranded hikers. Mount Work and Mount Finlayson seem to be reoccurring sites to look for lost hikers.”
There are number of things hikers should be thinking about when heading out into the wilderness whether it be a one- or six-hour hike to reduce the risk of becoming lost, and it begins with the three T’s – trip planning, training and taking the essentials.
When it comes to trip planning – regardless of how experienced a hiker is – let someone know where you are, what your route is and when you plan on returning, and if possible, don’t go alone.
Hikers should also do their due diligence before heading out by researching the terrain and checking the doppler radar on Environment Canada, which shows current weather patterns.
When planning a hike, make sure you have the training, skills and knowledge before you head out, and stay within your limits.
“We see a lot of social media posts about people’s wonderful hiking trips, but you have to know your limits and what your abilities are before you try and follow someone else’s Facebook post,” said Metchosin SAR member Catherine Franz, who educates children, youth and adults about being prepared through the Hug a Tree and Survive Outside programs.
Finally, the search and rescue team recommends taking the essentials, which include extra food and water, a first-aid kit, a fire making kit, extra clothing, a pocket knife and light source such as a flashlight, navigation and communication aids such as a GPS, compass a full-charged cell phone, and extra batteries.
If a hiker goes get lost, the sooner they call for help, the better. Those who are lost should also avoid moving around and stay in one place until found.
“Don’t be proud, call for help sooner rather than later,” said Brian Domney, team leader and training officer with Metchosin SAR, adding a hiker at Thetis Lake got lost, called for help quickly and the team was able to get him out in a “relatively quick time.”
But he noted some searches can take several hours.
While the team agreed more people are getting the message about being prepared, the number of people heading out into the wilderness is increasing overall.
“We’re seeing two trends right now. The first is we’ve got a lot more people heading out into the backwoods. A lot of people think social media has a role in that. People see that this trail exists and they want to see it. There’s a lot more people trying to get out in the backwoods that wouldn’t have previously,” Buchanan said.
“I do think we are seeing people more prepared. I think preparedness is getting better, but it’s lagging in just the sheer number of people going out.”