Wilderness guide calls on backcountry adventurers to be better prepared

WatchWildness guide implores people to be better prepared as they head into the backcountry

Fifty-year-old Murray Naswell spent six days in the Strathcona Park wilderness before being found Monday. He’d only been wearing shorts and a T-shirt when he got lost on Mount Albert Edward last Wednesday.

His disappearance sparked a massive search that wasn’t the first in this area and won’t be the last, which is why a local wilderness guide says people need to be better prepared when they head into the backcountry.

“Wondering around on the meadows is one thing but as soon as you head for Mount Albert Edward you’re going up into an alpine environment that has all of the hazards associated with the alpine,” said Jan Neuspiel of Island Alpine Guides. “It has steep cliffs, cornices and really lots of places that a person can get into trouble.”

He says the weather can change rapidly in the mountains and that’s what happened to Naswell, making him lose his way.

“There are no reference points and you really have to know how to navigate, how to read a map, how to use a compass and also how to take care of yourself should things go wrong,” he added.

Retailer Valhalla Pure Outfitters says it has noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people interested in the backcountry. It suggests a few safety items before hikers head out.

“A survival blanket is something that everybody, whether you’re day hiking or overnight hiking, should have,” said Jenna Doyle, manager at Valhalla Pure in Courtenay. “It’s simple and inexpensive, it’s lightweight and could save your life. You want to make sure you have food, you want to have a rain cover, matches, you want to have water or some way to purify water.”

Experts say you should have a communication device such as a cell phone or satellite GPS messenger and take a navigation and survival course before heading out.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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