What are your thoughts on the couple who got lost at Golden?

Out of bounds marker at Kicking Horse resort

Out of bounds marker at Kicking Horse resort

From today’s Calgary Herald:

Gilles Blackburn says he regrets not having matches in his pocket when he and his wife went skiing off a beaten trail in the Rockies on Feb. 15.

If, he had, he says his wife, Marie-Josée Fortin, would probably still be alive today. His wife died of hypothermia on Feb. 22, after the couple, who were on a ski holiday in British Columbia, spent nine days lost in the wilderness.

Soft-spoken and polite, Blackburn said that he is only partially responsible for what happened.

“What I did (by skiing out of bounds) was my fault,” he said, “I’m to blame for that on the 15th. But after that, on the 17th, on the 21st, when the police knew were lost and didn’t come to help, then that is not my fault.”

Read the full story Man who survivied Golden backcountry speaks out about ski ordeal

There are some interesting comments following the article. What is your opinion?

Personally, when I am out in the wilderness, I take 100% responsibility for what happens to me.  If you’re not prepared to do this, you shouldn’t be out there. I know that every time I go skiing by myself on a trail where there are few or no other skiers, if I have a serious accident on a very cold day, it’s probably over for me.   I accept these risks as part of the experience. If I break my leg and freeze to death, or a cougar eats me, it is ALL MY OWN DOING.

I can lessen the chances of a tragedy by being prepared with proper clothing and food, or better yet, skiing with a companion.


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  1. I guess Gilles Blackburn did hold a press conference today. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2009/03/06/skiers-guild.html

    This guy was not very well educated about the wilderness. Wild, unhabituated wolves do not attack people. I can’t think of a more beautiful sound than that of wolves howling at night.

  2. I agree with the above comments by Clive, still a lot of questions are unanswered and this guy has no intention of providing more info, see the latest quote as of March 4.
    “Mr. Blackburn said he has no plans to hold a news conference or to rehash details of what already has been said.”
    He claims “I’m responsible for the 15th and the 16th. I’m not for the 17th or any time afterward. That’s not my fault,” Mr. Blackburn said in an interview.
    I think is responsible for every action he took from the 15th on until he was found, and he is not talking, stories about wolves in alpine are being questioned, you may wander why he was doing what he was doing, it’s sad story,

  3. The couple must have been overcome with “powder euphoria” not to have been skiing with a full backpack. The story is truly amazing how the man survived such a length of time in those conditions, but to have to witness his wife’s death with the background of wolves howling every night, I cannot imagine how terrified I would be. This has the makings of an incredible movie called “SOS” but it is a sorry state when our overly bombarded world of external stimuli no longer recognizes true emergencies. I find often in wave pools, one cannot easily differentiate the joyous screams of a birthday party of 10 children vs. the shrieks of one child in panic amongst them. This is a sober reminder to ALL of us who love the outdoors to be on guard vigillently with all our senses for anything untoward and to be prepared to help.

  4. I think that blame can be placed on both sides in this incident. Clearly this couple made some tragic blunders. For one they left themselves all but untraceable – they had checked out of their hotel, left their car parked underground (where it still should have been noticed?) and were not expected anywhere for a week. Then they made the fatal mistake of descending into a different drainage with no lifts or cat tracks. They were, reportedly, very experienced skiers, but I cannot imagine descending a slope on downhill skis with no thought about how to get back up. Then, having got themselves lost they then proceeded to get themselves more lost by wandering about. Clearly ,their only option was to climb the slope they had descended. Its easy to second guess without knowing the snow conditions , but surely they could have either side stepped or post-holed their way back up – they had days. As for not being prepared for the wilderness, well they weren’t expecting to be in the wilderness. Maybe Kicking Horse Resort needs to have more explicit signage clearly stating the consequences of crossing the boundary fence without touring equipment. I think that the RCMP/ Golden SAR should hang their heads in shame for not taking their distress signals more seriously – but who knows if they would have been found even if a rescue was launched? An awful incident indeed.

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