An out-of-bounds snowboarder plucked from a treacherous gully by North Shore Rescue last week is speaking out in hopes of dissuading others from following his potentially deadly path.
“I want to raise awareness for some people because I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten out of that,” said Bobby Joyce, 40. “There’s a difference between backcountry riding and riding out of bounds. Out of bounds is out of bounds for a specific reason.”
Joyce spent the morning on Friday riding the slopes at Cypress Mountain. Tempted by what might be the last fresh powder of the season, he ducked the rope on Mount Strachan and headed west.
He quickly realized though, he’d reached a point of no return. With high avalanche risk, he knew it was unsafe to attempt climbing back to the top. Instead, Joyce went downhill to a place where he knew it would be easier for rescue crews to find him. He texted his plight to a friend who called 911 on his behalf, and West Vancouver police summoned North Shore Rescue.
“I was just hoping that no one above me was going to set anything off and just send the whole west side of that mountain just screaming down at me. The bears would have got me in the springtime, you know,” he said.
After a treacherous slog downhill, he wound up at the precipice of a 90-metre cliff in the Montizambert Creek drainage area – a cliff that has claimed more than a few lives of out-of-bound skiers and snowboarders over the years, including a 40-year-old Surrey father in 2016.
Once at the cliff ledge, Joyce had a two-hour wait. He thought about his eight-year-old son, to whom he is a single parent, and his teenage daughter who lives in England. He thought about the chances of a slide taking him out on the ledge. He thought about the rescuers who were coming for him and the risk they were putting themselves in to save his skin.
“I’d had a fair amount of time to have a good think about how lucky I was, that’s for sure,” he said. “You could also sense that eerie feeling in there that something else had gone wrong. … I think where I was sitting was pretty much exactly the same place where that guy had fallen two years ago.”
By the time crews arrived and he was rigged into the long-line harness, Joyce said he was physically drained, cold and wet. He stayed quiet on the trip back. His rescuers gave him a talking-to once they’d safely landed.
“They weren’t happy – understandably so. I’m just super grateful that they could pull me out of there,” he said, adding his thanks for the Talon Helicopter crew as well.
Joyce said he expects he’ll face some blowback from the community by putting his name and face out in public but, he said, he feels it’s the best thing he can do to help the team that helped him.
“I don’t really want anyone else to put themselves in that same position because it may not end up so well for other people,” he said. “For those few powder turns, people need to stop and think. Is it really worth it? Is it really worth your life? Is it worth risking other people’s lives to come and pull your stupid ass out of there, whether that be in a body bag or by foot or by air? It really doesn’t make any difference. It’s a life-and-death situation.”
But before Joyce had even had a chance to share his story, rescue crews were back in the Montizambert drainage on Monday night, pulling a lone skier out of trouble. While they were doing a survey flight, crews spotted another skier’s tracks in the snow headed toward North Strachan Creek, signalling there was potentially another person in the wilderness who had yet to be reported missing.