Many of us will be lucky enough to have never experienced an emergency situation in the backcountry, but the more days you accrue, the higher the chance it will (eventually) happen. Avalanches don’t always result in a burial, but they can easily cause massive trauma if the victim is swept off a cliff or into boulders or trees. Ski and sledding injuries happen, and not necessarily from reckless behaviour.
Responsible backcountry citizens will always be ready for self-rescue but don’t always have a plan for what happens after that self-rescue. In the Pemberton backcountry, a Search and Rescue (SAR) call will take a minimum of two hours to arrive, and that’s if the weather and daylight is sufficient to fly. The importance (and convenience) of a 2-way satellite communicator cannot be overstated here. There is no reliable cell phone coverage in the Pemberton backcountry (signal is lost around the fourth switchback on the Duffey Lake Road) so having at least one of these devices per party will make all the difference. But knowing what to text from your satellite device is equally important.
“What’s really important for us as a SAR team is to get as much information on an incident as you can; specific nature of the injury, number of people in the party, location. Ninety-five percent of rescues that we do use helicopters. Is there a suitable spot where we can land the helicopter near you or is it going to require a longline mission? These things always happen at the end of the day and we’re always fighting darkness. The more information we receive from the get-go, the greater chance we have of pulling out the injured party.” — Peter Schimek, Pemberton Search and Rescue president and search manager
Everyone in the party should have basic First Aid skills, preferably someone will have the extensive knowledge gained from an 80-hour first aid course such as the Wilderness First Responder. Many guiding outfitters will offer First Aid training for every level.