On the weekend of Oct. 10, 2020, my son and Memorial alumnus, Jordan Naterer, fought a courageous battle to survive in the mountain wilderness of E.C. Manning Provincial Park, B.C.
After accidentally losing the hiking trail in unexpected blizzard conditions, Jordan was funnelled down into a treacherous drainage basin. He struggled in the dark through steep terrain with massive tree downfall over several kilometres in a valiant effort to escape the drainages.
When our search team eventually found some of his hiking gear and Jordan’s final resting place, it was difficult to comprehend how someone could have travelled that distance in those conditions. Only a superstar like my son, a proud Newfoundlander, could have made such a heroic effort.
An experienced mountaineer
I would like to share some of the details of what happened on that weekend. Given the sensitivity of this topic, it is difficult for me to discuss.
Jordan enjoyed hiking and the mountains. Before he moved to B.C., it was a family activity we enjoyed together on the East Coast Trail. He was experienced in mountaineering, sometimes hiking with his friends and, other times, by himself.
A witness said Jordan appeared happy and excited on his way up the Frosty Mountain trail. The forecast was for good weather at the lower elevation. Unfortunately, he was caught off-guard by an unexpected snowstorm and got lost in the sub-alpine area of one of the trails at higher elevations.
The elevation change of the trail from the base to the summit is substantial – from 1,200 to 2,400 metres, or a climb totalling approximately 1,200 metres.
A complicated search
The Vancouver Police Department suspended their search after only four days. My family and I continued a private search with volunteers, thanks to the generous financial support of many donors, largely including the Memorial community.
My wife managed communications, social media, intelligence gathering and co-ordinating volunteers to hike and review drone videos. My daughter co-ordinated a large fundraising effort to support our private search. Together with other hiking partners, from early February to July, I searched on- and off-trail on more than 80 hikes totalling approximately 1,600 kilometres.
Manning Park is very large with dozens of trails totalling more than 300 kilometres and an area of 206,760 acres. It is also located on the United States-Canada border, which made the search more complicated since it is possible to accidentally cross the border off-trail through the wilderness.
Improving hiking safety
Other than the trailheads, there are generally no signs along trails to point hikers in the right direction. The park has many false and spur trails off the main trails that can deceive and endanger hikers. Several posted trails on maps are not maintained or no longer exist. Tree blowdown may not be cleared for years.
There are no cameras anywhere along trails, parking lots or highway at the resort to help find someone who may have gone missing. When backcountry camping passes are completed by hikers to notify the park of their hiking plan and campsite, there isn’t any followup to confirm whether those hikers actually return.
I reported these and other shortcomings to park safety staff. It is my hope that positive changes can be made at the park, and other parks, to improve the safety of hiking trails.
Honouring Mother Earth
During our search, we invited Mike Allison, a wise and respected Indigenous community leader, to give a blessing for the safe passage of Jordan through their land. Mike was a council member of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band (part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance).
Mike explained that land, water, animals and humans are all connected as one through Tmix. Tmix refers to sacred life and forces that encompass the spirit of the natural world. In Indigenous tradition it is considered an honour to Jordan to be called by the land and given back to Mother Earth.
It is estimated that between 70,000-80,000 people are reported missing to police each year in Canada. As reported by the Capital Daily, more than 40 per cent of Canada’s total cases involving adults occurred in British Columbia in 2020.
Thanks and gratitude
Many thanks to all at Memorial who have supported our search over the past year through your thoughts, help, prayers and financial support. I’m grateful to my employer, Memorial University, for allowing me the time off from work to continue searching for Jordan.
We have found Jordan. Although it was not the outcome that we hoped for, at least Jordan is now with us and not another statistic of a missing person who was never found.