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Squamish SAR readies itself for first summer without travel restrictions

As the summer season begins, search and rescue expects to hit the 150 calls mark again this year.

Squamish Search and Rescue is girding itself to start the first summer high season without pandemic travel restrictions in years.

"[It will] be interesting to see what, if any, of the previous rise in call volume had to do with COVID, now that most, if not all, travel restrictions and whatnot have been lifted," Chute said.

Crews are getting ready for the May long weekend, which is typically the beginning point of the summer high season.

On May 16, rescue manager B.J. Chute told The Squamish Chief that while up until this point, there have been only 31 callouts — primarily for mountain biking incidents — crews are getting themselves ready for a year with about 150 calls.

Last year, the rescue agency hit over 150 calls, shattering its previous record of 124 calls in 2020.

Most recently, the team responded to a mountain bike injury at Pseudo Tsuga on May 13.

A sick and dehydrated person called for aid at Elfin Lakes the previous day. This person was ultimately coached by phone to make their way out of the trail network.

"We've had a few lost people at Cheak[amus], a couple more mountain bike crashes," said Chute. "This time of year is typically mountain-bike related. I think it just makes sense. That's the activity that's predominant in Squamish right now."

Crews also recently have been putting in time doing helicopter drills.

"Every spring, we do our annual helicopter safety as well as what's called hover-entry and hover-exit training," said Chute. "So all of our members who deploy into the field are certified by Blackcomb Aviation on how to safely not only operate around the helicopters but also how to either exit or enter with the helicopters unable to land."

With the high season upon us, Chute urged people to do research on their prospective adventures before heading out.

"There's still lots of snow in the alpine, which people may not be expecting, and temperatures obviously are going to be a little bit cooler as you gain elevation," he said. "So some of the hikes, even up the gondola, for example — there's still snow at the top of the gondola. And we have those typical day hikes that people would expect to be clear [that are still] not clear."

Again, preparation and the three Ts of trip planning, training and taking the essentials are necessary to have a safe, fun time, he said, and 911 is still the fastest way to activate search and rescue.

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