When I wrote my article on a pattern of accidents I had observed in winter sports lovers, I talked about the snow conditions that contribute to a slip and fall accident. That, combined with easy access to the alpine, a large local population, and the local terrain (U-shaped valleys) create the conditions for accidents where people slip and fall on steep snow. Sometimes they are wearing snowshoes because the snow in the local mountains is usually a winter and spring phenomenon.
This year however there is more snow than usual (breaking records in fact), which could cause some problems. Tourists and hikers, not expecting snow, are hiking out there in soft footwear, and in the early mornings the snow is hard. Many of the traditional hikes on the North Shore traverse steep slows which in the summer are not a problem because they are rocky or bushy and there’s lots of hand and foot holds. The late spring and summer weather has made the snow linger in the alpine much longer than usual. It’s expected that some areas (north aspects, shady areas) will retain snow until the fall.
Travelling on hard snow is best done with strong boots, crampons and an ice axe, plus a little training on how to do it. Don’t underestimate the hazard, a fallen hiker accelerates very quickly on snow, and hitting a tree or a rock can be fatal.
The other related hazard to the snowpack is higher than average creeks. As the snow softens and melts throughout the day, creeks swell so in the afternoon and evening they are more dangerous than in the morning, as a recent rescue in Lynn Canyon attests.
Keep an eye on the conditions and be safe out there, and not just on the North Shore, the snow is everywhere!