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Two off-road scramblers spend a cold night in the mountains

“They had warm clothes and they were able to start a fire and they were reasonably well equipped, but they made a few tactical mistakes and ended up having to stay overnight,” said Jeremy Mackenzie, public safety specialist for the area. of Kananaskis.

KANANASKIS — Two men and their injured dog spent a long, cold night in the mountains with their two rescuers after jammers’ attempt to take a shortcut earlier in the day went horribly wrong.

Kananaskis Country Public Safety Specialists responded to a call for help on an SOS device Sunday April 17 from two men who decided to take a shortcut on a scrambling route locals call Midnight Peak , near Baldy Pass, and got stuck in dangerous terrain that was no longer navigable.

As darkness fast approached, it was too late for an Alpine helicopter to fly. Two rescuers came in and spent the night with the two men and their dog on the side of the mountain, all looking forward to a dawn flight the next morning.

“They had warm clothes and they were able to start a fire and they were reasonably well equipped, but they made a few tactical mistakes and ended up having to stay overnight,” said Jeremy Mackenzie, public safety specialist for the area. of Kananaskis.

“One was trying to take the shortcut – they thought they were following human tracks for a while, but eventually they realized they were following animal tracks – and the second thing is they had a dog with them and the dog tore his legs off and couldn’t walk.

The alarm was given around 8 p.m. on a SPOT satellite communication device. Both rescuers left with high-energy food, overnight gear and supplies, as well as crampons and ice axes due to the type of terrain the two jammers found themselves on after taking the shortcut.

At midnight, rescuers reached the snowy and slippery spot, where they found the two men huddled around a fire they had started earlier in the evening to try to stay warm as nighttime temperatures began to drop. fall.

“The original intent was to see if there was a way to move to a better location or even possibly escort them,” Mackenzie said.

“But given the darkness, and the fact that their dog could barely move, and they were exhausted, and the ground was very slippery and actually quite dangerous right below them, the team at rescue decided to stay on site for the night.”

Temperatures hovered around minus 14 degrees Celsius all night, but Mackenzie said there was, thankfully, not much wind.

“Everyone was cool, but they were well enough prepared to be successful,” he said.

“It seemed like everyone was in good spirits and in pretty good health. It was just an uncomfortable night.

Back in Canmore, other Kananaskis Country Public Safety members were in constant contact with their mountain counterparts.

“We knew everything was fine, but we still wanted to get them off the mountain as soon as possible in the morning,” Mackenzie said.

“A conservation officer and I went to the hangar at dawn and we were able to fly. We quickly located them and performed a helicopter rescue for each of them. I think everyone was probably out of the mountain at 7:00, 7:15 a.m.”

K-Country public safety specialists say there are several lessons to be learned from this incident.

As attractive as shortcuts are, they rarely work and account for a large portion of emergency call volumes.

They say the ravine and creek features usually contain steep terrain and cascading ice in the winter, so Mackenzie said it’s best for people to stick to established routes and plan their route properly before setting out. go.

“Don’t take that juicy shortcut, because it usually won’t work, and that’s part of what contributed to this incident,” Mackenzie said.

Appropriate clothing and equipment for venturing into the mountains is also essential.

Mackenzie said there is more hiking and scrambling, but right now the peaks are in perfect winter condition.

“While these guys had some of the right equipment, what they didn’t have was things like crampons and ice axes, and they were definitely on land where you could and should have that kind of thing. of equipment,” Mackenzie said.

“In some cases, the micro-tips just aren’t enough – to be fair, they had micro-tips and rackets – but it wasn’t the right tool for the particular place they were in. Another great thing is being prepared for this possible evening and this contributes to a good result.

Communication devices also play a vital role in rescues. During Sunday’s incident, the two men had a SPOT satellite communication device, which allowed them to quickly send the call for help in case of trouble.

“That’s how we got the original alarm, but we were also able to reach them by cell phone, so it’s good to have multiple ways to call for help,” Mackenzie said.

Navigation skills and proper navigation tools are also essential.

In this case, Mackenzie said the two men relied on an online mapping application that did not provide accurate information.

“You have to be skeptical of what you find online and do a bunch of research,” he said.