Wet blanket NCC no authority on lake crossings

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by admin on February 17, 2010

Re: “To cross a lake or not…” Feb. 10 edition

Unfortunately, public pressure for absolute guarantees forces Louis-Rene Senechal to reference an NCC policy that a person should never cross a frozen lake, even though the Red Cross gives thickness requirements for the safe travel of a snowmobile (a figure even exists somewhere for a full dump truck).

For those who wish to enjoy connecting a few lakes and ponds together while on a ski journey, more than just common sense must prevail. Just as a back-country alpine skier must have a keen and educated sense of avalanche terrain, a frozen lake crossing requires a similar approach.

Further to the Red Cross recommendations and an acquired thickness of the ice, an understanding of the weather patterns throughout the winter is essential. Temperatures and duration of cold snaps, timing and amount of snow or rain, and the odd combinations of all three are all critical components to a “safe thicknesses” of the ice. Thick ice can also be deceptive as all entry and exit points of water flow on lakes will remain potentially unsafe all winter long. Winter rain or general warming, and the eventual drainage, can create dangerous suspended layers between the thick ice and water below. Similar to alpine snow cohesion, ice is a process of evaluating and understanding the potential risks and benefits.

Important travel tips include: not grouping up on suspect areas, carry ice picks, (or use your poles picks), carry 10 m of thin throw rope and some preparedness if someone does fall in. People do not generally receive injuries from falling in, problems arise from not getting out soon enough and what happens soon after.

It’s a shame that the NCC web page back country information box still suggests that a cell phone is the most important tool for back country travel. Take responsibility for your own actions, and if your gut says no….get home the safe way.

Carsten Podehl (Quebec Dundee)

Wakefield, Quebec