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Posted: Jun 20 2012, 01:34 PM
Member No.: 406
Joined: 22-January 09
German man reported missing nearly a year after vanishing on walk across Yukon
Tristin Hopper Jun 19, 2012 – 12:52 AM ET
Last June, German national Till Gerull took a direct flight from Frankfurt to Whitehorse with a plan of walking “through the forests of Canada.” One year later, his return ticket is unclaimed, his trail is cold and his family has been left to fear that, like so many others, Mr. Gerull never emerged from the northern Canadian wilderness he set out to explore.
“Often, we get people who come here and have a greater trust in their skills as a woodsman than maybe they ought to,” said RCMP spokesman Sergeant Don Rogers.
The vast expanses of the Yukon are of particular draw for German tourists entranced by Jack London novels, Robert Service poems and annual broadcasts of the Yukon Quest sled dog race. In addition to being the only European country to run a direct flight to the territory, in 2009 the Hanover Zoo cut the ribbon on a $50-million, immaculately detailed Yukon theme world.
Mr. Gerull, out of contact with his German relatives for more than a year, was only reported missing last month. Yukon police did not even know Mr. Gerull, 24, was missing before Interpol traced his movements to the arrivals lounge of the Whitehorse airport.
“The trail starts or ends here, depending on your perspective,” Sgt. Rogers said.
The biggest thing is the intensity of the wilderness up here and the sparseness of the population
Each year, an estimated 10,000 German-speaking Europeans make the trip to the territory — making them the territory’s largest overseas market.
Brian Bakker, a volunteer with the Kluane Search and Rescue Association, says the standard demographic of the Yukon wilderness visitor is the “professional sitting at his desk all year” who hops a jet from downtown Frankfurt with “their top-of-the-line Suunto GPS watch and SAT phone.” Once the gear gets wet, lost or loses power, “then the calls start coming in for overdue or missing persons.’’
Renowned for its pristine wilderness, visitors are nevertheless routinely surprised how much the territory contrasts with the well-developed parks and hiking trails of Europe or southern Canada. “The biggest thing is the intensity of the wilderness up here and the sparseness of the population,” said Arthur MacMaster of the Yukon’s Emergency Measures Organization. “Once you get into the bush, you’re pretty well on your own.”
A canoeist floating north on the Yukon River from Whitehorse, for instance, will be alone for several days until he or she comes upon Carmacks, a village of only a few hundred. While the map may seem filled with settlements, such as “Lower Laberge,” many have been abandoned for decades.
The entire trip will also be beset by unpredictable weather and occur completely out of range of cell towers. “Go east or west out of Whitehorse over the first set of hills and you can kiss your cellphone goodbye,” said Al Elkholm, a volunteer with Whitehorse search and rescue.
Every summer will yield at least one or two canoeists who are swept away by the current of the territory’s deceptively calm rivers, which have claimed hundreds of lives since the Klondike Gold Rush. “A moving river powers you along and can get you ‘in over your head’ if you are not prepared,” Neil Hartling, owner of the territory’s Nahanni River Adventures, wrote in an email to the Post. “Ironically, most people get in the worst trouble on the flat meandering stretches when they let their guard down,” he added.
Of late, many of the territory’s most high-profile wilderness encounters have come courtesy of reality TV. In the summer of 2009, amateur British adventurer Ed Wardle was dropped into the central Yukon to live off the land for a U.K. series entitled Alone in the Wild. After seven weeks in which he capsized his canoe, accidentally shot himself with bear spray and gathered no more than a few meals’ worth of berries and porcupines, the undernourished adventurer had to be evacuated by private float plane.
The next year, several participants in a French-Canadian reality TV show were nearly killed when, while hiking over the Chilkoot Trail in period clothes, they made a meal of the false hellebore, one of the most lethally toxic plants on the West Coast. Miraculously, a ranger came upon the nausea and diarrhea-stricken group in the nick of time and radioed in a helicopter.
The “common denominator” with most wilderness rescues is adventurers putting too much faith in technology, wrote Mr. Bakker of the Kluane Search and Rescue Association in an email to the Post.
“Occasionally visitors will hit the back country and ‘go where the wind takes them,’ ”
wrote Brian Smart, search and rescue co-ordinator for the Emergency Measures Organization. But “without completing a trip plan before you leave, you could find yourself lost without anyone knowing about your trip or your expected return date,” he wrote.
Posted: Jun 20 2012, 01:36 PM
Member No.: 406
Joined: 22-January 09