Search and rescue called out as pair spend night on Grey Mountain

Looking across the Grey/Kickup basin from Mt. Kirkup summit - Andrew Zwicker photo
Looking across the Grey/Kickup basin from Mt. Kirkup summit - Andrew Zwicker photo

To go or not to go. When the snow is as good as it’s been in Rossland over the last couple of days calling it a day can be a difficult decision when you’ve got untracked slopes all around. On Monday night a local area father and his son from Whistler made the call for one last run and it ended up being a long one that prompted a Rossland Search and Rescue callout by concerned family members.

 
Skiing the side-country near Red Mountain Resort on Monday the father and son duo made the call for one more run in the Grey /Kirkup zone. Before they were able to safely make their way off the mountain and call it a day, darkness had descended on them and the skies had opened up with heavy snowfall coming down. The experienced backcountry skiers were equipped and knew how to handle a night in the backcountry so rather than try and pick their way down the mountain under dark skies they decided to stay put and make the best of it.
 
The skiers were not lost and while they did have a cell phone on them, that particular area of the mountains has no service so they dug in, literally.
 
Constructing a snow cave on the Grey Mountain side of the valley they huddled up and prepared to spend the night, complete with space blankets for warmth.
 
After they didn’t arrive when and where they had initially intended, family members grew concerned and put a call into the RCMP who promptly got in touch with Red Mountain. As it was after hours at the ski hill and ski patrol finished for the day the RCMP then contacted the Rossland Search and Rescue around 6:30pm to call them into action. That team, without a clear direction on where the missing skiers were searched the most common areas where people get misdirected or disoriented in the surrounding backcountry around the Red Mountain area from 8:30pm through 11:00pm.
 
Based on past experience and knowledge of the terrain in the Rossland Range RSAR kept members of the team on snowmobiles waiting in the Sheep Creek Basin in case the pair turned up.
 
By roughly 3:00am in the morning the snow had let up and the light from the moon was bright enough that the pair decided they’d get on the move and start their way out. As soon as they hit cell service they were able to contact friends to come and meet them at the highway for pickup.
 
By 7:00am Tuesday morning RSAR had been contacted to let them know that all was well and the temporarily missing pair was back in safe hands by 9:30am that morning.
 
Although they didn’t end up locating or coming in contact with the missing pair before they made their own way out Dave Braithwaite of the RSAR noted that it was a good opportunity for the group to get out and practice their skills.
 
“We took the event on as a training opportunity. We got to use a bunch of our tools and had a good practice session. It was good to get people up to speed and out there working together. We had a bunch of guys out and it went really well. We had a lot of support and everyone was glad in the end that the two made it out safely.”
Had the group not been prepared with avalanche gear, safety equipment, extra food and clothing, things could have turned out worse . That, noted the RSAR is the message that should be taken from this incident.
 
“They had backcountry skills, all of the right gear and they were all set up to spend a night on the mountain if need be. It ended well largely because of that.”