Hi Marvin: 

You may not remember me but I took the Tracker 1 class with you in Salt Spring last June and again in Salmon Arm this October (in the pouring rain). I’m that semi-retire rancher from north of Kamloops that you took pleasure in beating at crib so often in Salmon Arm.

I just wanted to let you know what a difference you, Tony, and Mike are making in B.C.   Lives are being saved because of your training efforts.  The frustrating part for me though is finding out how many people will tell me, “oh I have Track Aware or part of”, and don’t think they need to go any further.  Last week I was involved in a search for a subject which I would never have found with just Track Aware.

Here was the scenario: 

2pm three 19 year old Aussie snowboards just 6 weeks into Canada, had to go out of bounds on Tod Mountain elevation 7,000 feet (Sun Peaks Resort) northeast of Kamloops.  They got lost on the wrong side of the mountain, finally boarding down through the trees and out into a logged block.  Then they hit a logging road with snowmobile tracks on it at about 5,000 feet, and walked west about 3 miles.  At this point the road started to descend into the valley bottom which is about 2200 ft. elevation so they decided instead to head south on a spur road (elevation 4000 ft) to get back to the resort which was southeast.  The spur only went south about a mile and dead ended so they decided to head west again, hitting a creek gulley and planned to walk down the creek, all the way to the valley bottom.  This valley has extremely rugged valley walls covered with trees and rock outcroppings, and slopes running 70 to 100% plus.  Sometime shortly after they headed down the creek in calf deep snow, one fellow slipped on some rock, hit his head (still had his helmet on luckily), injured his back, strained and bruised other parts.  He could not go on.  His partners decided to leave him and continue down the gulley to the bottom and get help.  No one had matches, knife, compass or anything else that would be useful.  There is no cell phone coverage in this valley.  It took his buddies 3 hours to get to the nearest ranch house in the valley.  It is now 5pm and dark.  Calls are made through all the normal channels and we get called out at Kamloops Search and Rescue at 6:30.  

By the time we mobilized the troops and drove the one hour to the ranch house it is 9:15 pm.  Our search manager conferred with the rancher regarding access, dangers, etc.  We had about 12 searchers, snowmobiles, and the other usual equipment.  In the valley floor when the two buddies hiked out there was about 1 inches of snow on the ground.  By the time we got there it was snowing heavily and there was about 2 inches of new snow on top of that 1 inches.  Everyone felt the subject was most likely up near the 4000 foot level so they would send the searchers up the logging road to where the snowboarders had split off, pick up their tracks and follow them down the creek gulley.  Just in case the subject tried to move and follow his buddies down the creek, the search manager asked me to back trail the two buddy's tracks up the mountain from the ranch house.  He could spare only one ground searcher to go with me as he felt everyone would be needed up at the top to carry this kid out.  My trail was a long shot that had to be checked out.

Unfortunately, I am the only Tracker 1 in Kamloops.  The young fellow they gave me had only had a 2 hour introduction to track aware during his Ground Search and Rescue training course last year, but fortunately he had hunted with his dad a fair bit when he was growing up, was a quick learner and very observant.

The two buddies that we were backtracking, had obviously got panicky as light started to fade.  They had come upon about 3 acres of blow down pine just above the ranch.  They walked over some trees, under others, and 3 or 4 times when I lost their tracks, they were walking along the logs, 4 to 5 feet off the ground rather than walking around the blow down.  Further up the mountain, a band of deer had walked through the area about the same time as the buddies which added more confusing disturbance to the snow.  I was obviously trying to move the tracks quickly as we were worried about hypothermia of our subject.  Every time we lost the tracks I would hear the words of you boys ringing in my head.  “Mark the last good track and cut around the obstacle.”  Further up the hill, we tracked them into a creek draw which was a sheet of ice.  They had walked down the ice.  It was too dangerous at night to track up the creek but I heard your voices again, “it is just like a road, track the edges to keep them on it”.  We split up, one each side of the gulley and started up.

Meanwhile the subject had recovered enough before dark, to follow his buddies down the creek.  Our two man tracking team found him, totally exhausted, dangerously hypothermic, and unable to walk another step, of a mile and 500 feet elevation above the ranch at 11:30 pm.  We radioed in, had all the other teams return to command, pick up the stretcher and head up to help us.  I had given them our GPS coordinates and some had tried to follow us through the blow down and later asked me how the hell we ever got through there.  They had been force to backtrack and go around following their GPS.  We loaded him in the ambulance at 3:30 am.  He was later diagnosed as hypothermic enough that his legs had shut down, had a concussion, whiplash, bruises, and a chipped vertebrae.  Our search manger/paramedic said it was unlikely he would have made it to daylight.

Without the knowledge you gave me in the Tracker 1 course, I am sure I wouldn’t have had to knowledge or confidence to let go of the track and pick it up again further on.  And I should correct myself, most of what we were tracking was “sign”, not tracks.  Snow brushed off the leaves of Oregon Grape plants, or toe drags where they had stepped over a logs.  I didn’t really appreciate how significant the difference was between the material in Track Aware and Tracker 1 until then.  We have even impressed some of our members and search managers who I think may be using trackers a little more often in the future.

Keep up the good work.
Merry Christmas, Marvin.  Hope to see you next year.

Dwaine Brooke
Tracker 1
Kamloops Search and Rescue

B. & D. Brooke
Tod Mountain Herefords
Heffley Creek, B.C.