Photo of B.C. hikers reveals that we often don’t know the danger we’re in

people standing at edge of cornice

There are lots of things to love about hiking: it lets you get out into beautiful scenery, it’s good exercise, and it’s inexpensive. But while hiking is considered a generally pleasant and accessible activity, it can also be quite dangerous. And if you don’t believe it, someone has taken a photo that perfectly illustrates how much danger hikers may be in without realizing it.

The photo, taken using a drone, shows several hikers standing at the edge of a mountain in Vancouver’s North Shore. However, from the hikers’ perspective, it seems that they may not realize that they’re standing right at the brink of a cornice — a layer of snow that is hanging over the mountain’s edge.

Mike Danks, a spokesperson for North Shore Rescue, said that he believes hikers need to be much more careful. “They’ve stayed back a little bit, but they’re naive,” he told the CBC.

The photo was taken just a month after five hikers were killed after walking on a cornice that then collapsed off the side of a nearby Mount Harvey. A sixth hiker, who had hung back from the group a bit, saw his friends’ footprints leading to the mountain’s edge, where they aruptly stopped.

B.C.’s Mount Harvey, where five hikers fell to their deaths in April.

While the hikers who were killed were experienced, cornices can be very deceptive, which is why safety authorities urge hikers to be extremely cautious. Danks urges people to educate themselves about hiking risks, and to take mountain courses if they’re going to be hiking on mountains, particularly snow-covered ones. “Right now we’re seeing warming temperatures, and it’s just a matter of time until [the cornice] fails. Through the winter they’ve built up to a point where they can’t hold their own weight, and that’s when they’ll fracture,” Danks said.

Safety officials have also noted the role of social media in leading inexperienced hikers to dangerous routes. Danks has urged selfie-takers to give a bit of information along with their mountaintop photos, explaining the difficulty of the hike and any necessary safety precautions. He also warns would-be hikers that Instagram photos may be unreliable, and it’s best to do your own research before embarking on a hike.