A little knowledge and the right equipment helped the author manage an injury and extend a trip through the backcountry where he had a memorable encounter with a mountain goat like the one pictured here.

Nature bites hard

Outdoorsman Lawrence Woodall explains how proper preparation can be a life saver.

Winter is upon us, and a few weeks ago B.C.’s chief Coroner released statistics showing an average of 10 people die annually while engaged in skiing, snowmobiling, and snowboarding, while another 15 people die annually from exposure to cold or hypothermia in the province.

That’s an average of 25 people dying every winter in B.C., of which more than 90 per cent are preventable if backcountry winter enthusiasts are properly equipped and heed the warnings of experts.

Deaths and injuries will occur even with the most thought-out risk management plan. But if you make the effort, a few dollars’ worth of equipment and training and a few pounds of emergency equipment may save your life — or at least make an injury more comfortable while self-rescuing or awaiting the arrival of emergency personnel.

The report noted 7,000 people took avalanche courses run by the avalanche center last year. Training is critical in judgement calls, but if the experts advise there is a high to extreme risk of avalanche in the region you plan on visiting, plan to visit a different location. There are plenty of mountains in B.C.

Over the years I’ve shared many stories of backcountry travellers — those who were properly prepared and those who were not — and their outcomes. Well, I’d like to share an adventure from this past summer (no, it wasn’t winter, but it illustrates having emergency gear can make the difference between a disaster and a reasonably enjoyable adventure — or, in this particular instance, a fantastic adventure).

We were scrambling up a scree slope at about 8,000 feet in early morning in the Selkirks. One moment all was good, the next we were hit with a rock shower of shale and brittle quartz (we figured we had spooked some mountain goats above us).

Well, we mostly made it out unscratched except for my right hand, which took a beating. Initially I didn’t notice pain, most likely due to the adrenaline rush of the rock shower. It was the following morning while attempting to rise that the pain in the wrist was, well, as a pregnant woman giving birth would say, “Suck it up, girly man.”

We checked blood flow, which was good; there was no grating of bone, leading us to believe it was a simple fracture with ample swelling. Carrying a modified Level 1 first aid kit always when in the backcountry allowed us to splint the wrist. We discussed our options but determined that the docs would only x-ray and place a cast on the wrist, which already was immobile with good blood flow.

If it wasn’t for the first aid kit, our adventure would have ended that morning. Instead, we spent the next two weeks traversing glaciers and enjoying the best mountain goat encounters — including spending several hours with Goliath, a well-known goat to the local mountaineers, and, as his name implies, he’s massive.

The second last day of that trip provided a memory I’ll cherish until they bury my bones. While having our morning coffee and enjoying the sun breaking the horizon, a Billy wandered up and head-butted my raised foot.

As to the wrist, our prognosis was reasonably close. It was multiple fractures and some tendon inflammation, two casts and physiotherapy to follow. The greatest pain was a lot of cheap talk about aging bones from a bunch of young whipper-snappers whose greatest adventure will be their high scores on their video games. Touché.

Injuries will happen, and when nature bites, she bites hard. So be prepared, have the proper gear and training, carry a decent first aid kit and listen to the experts — they usually have some pretty good advice. As for the skiers and snowboarders who cross the “Do not go beyond this sign due to hazardous conditions” line, the planet is, I believe, over populated anyhow. Do we really want these characters mixed in the gene pool?

 

Lawrence Woodall is a longtime naturalist who has spent much of his life in the outdoors.

 

Just Posted

Aftershock soccer tournament takes over Port Hardy fields

Around the clock matches were played in divisions ranging from tots to U18.

Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre’s 2018-2019 graduating class

The Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre is located on the Tsulquate reserve in the North Island.

Skin deep: A look inside the ink behind Beacon Tattoo

Patrick Berube, owner of Beacon Tattoo, spends most of his Tuesdays at… Continue reading

Second recreational cannabis shop opens its doors in Port Hardy

Pacificanna owner Darren Saunders was excited to finally see his family-run business open up shop.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: A lone crow landing beside an eagle

“I saw an eagle just sitting there, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t be there long as I got closer”

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Most Read