When it comes to outdoor wilderness survival training or just generally knowing what to do in the advent of an emergency when you are outside in nature, having some tools to use is always a good thing. Especially being that we live in North Vancouver and are surrounded by dense forest, mountains, rivers and the ocean. In this article we had the distinct pleasure to sit down and chat with Brent Hillier of Canada West Mountain School to learn about him and his business in helping prepare people for the elements.
How did you come to start living in North Vancouver and what do you like most about it here?
I moved to North Vancouver for what was suppose to be a few months only. My plan was to work for MEC and get a bunch of gear on discount. But I immediately fell in love with North Van, and originally it was for the trails and access to the mountains. But the closer I’ve moved to Lower Lonsdale the more I’ve started to enjoy the urban parts of this community.
You are very active with survival skills trsining, avalanche safety and the North Shore Mountain Bike Association, how do you find the time to be part of all them?
I do a lot of different things for work, but they all relate to the outdoors and how to be safe while enjoying the forest and mountains. I split my career into 3 Seasons: Winter is for Teaching Avalanche Courses, the Spring/Summer is for Mountain Biking and Trail Building, and the Fall is for Backpacking and Hiking.
What are some edible plants that are safe to consume in the North Shore mountains in a survival situation?
To be honest, food is the least important thing when it comes to survival. There’s the rule of 3’s: You can survive 3 Minutes without Oxygen, 3 Days without Water and 3 Weeks without Food. That said, after 12 Hours without food you’ll be pretty grumpy, which is why everyone brings food in my Survival Courses. You can’t learn when you’re ‘Hangry’! The biggest challenge with Surviving here is the Water, and not that’s there’s not enough of if, but that there’s too much. Hypothermia, even outside of Winter, is the biggest concern and that’s why it’s so important to go into the outdoors prepared to spend a night, in case something goes wrong.
What are your favourite mountain biking trails to enjoy for yourself near Upper Lonsdale?
I have the privilege of maintaining the Griffen Trails on Mount Fromme, and whether it’s building or riding, it’s one of my favourites.
What would you recommend people take with them if they are hiking the North Shore mountains?
The Essentials are key! Emergency Shelter, Food, Water, Extra Clothing, Headlamp, Communication Device (In-Reach is Preferred), Navigation (Map & Compass) and First Aid. The later two require knowledge and training to use. Plus, depending on the season and where you’re going, it’s important to consider avalanches; If you’re hiking in any amount of snow you should have taken an Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 and be carrying a shovel, avalanche transceiver/beacon and a probe. And finally, never go alone!
In your spare time outside of running the business what do you do for activities?
Spare time is actually something that I’ve had to work hard on over the last few years, especially since becoming a Dad. And to help with slowing life down, I’ve gathered a few hobbies that aren’t related to my work. Lately I’ve been enjoying Disc Golf and Picnics with my Family, and in my solo time: listening to music on vinyl and keeping a boxscore while watching baseball.
Is there anything else you might want our readers to know about you or your business?
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The office is located at #240 – 400 Brooksbank Avenue