The General Manager of Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola, Kirby Brown has acknowledged that “a bad judgement call” was made after a couple were forced to walk down an 11 kilometer forest service road in the evening following a 6 hour hike with few supplies remaining.

The incident occurred on March 17th when 18-year-old Shelbee Fulton and her boyfriend decided to hike the Sea to Summit Trail, a route she has hiked several times. The Langley resident says she has been outdoors all her life, is familiar with the mountain and had already hiked both the Sea to Summit and the Stawamus Chief trail twice.

The pair left around noon prepared for a hike of approximately 3-5 hours. Their provisions included seven bottles of water, hiking bracelets that were equipped with whistles, a fire starter, compass (that unfortunately didn’t work), phones with full batteries, jackets, hiking boots and food.

When reaching the summit after being slowed down by an icy trail and the gondola already closed the pair were advised that the fee for both of them to download was $60. The company’s website advertises $15 per person to download. However a late fee for downloading after hours would have been applicable. A statement from the company says that; “In the past guests have sought special assistance in downloading after the gondola is closed and this service is offered for an additional fee. This fee is not advertised as these after-hours downloads are not a regular service offering, when the gondola closes for the day operations need to cease.”

After not having enough cash to cover the additional late fee, and the ATM at the summit not working Fulton and her boyfriend were instructed by a staff member that they would have to hike down. “The gondola was running, two girls stepped on directly before us… I’m not trying to play the sympathy card but I was in tears, it was obvious that I was in no shape or form to continue hiking” said Fulton.

“The staff at the top are meant to just do a quick evaluation on weather to not they [the public] are capable of getting themselves off the hill – there’s a forest road that goes down the back – or should be permitted to load the gondola. In other words we’ve got to bring staff in and turn the thing on, after we’ve closed” says Brown. “In this case a decision was made that they could walk down the back road. It’s a judgement call, it was a bad judgement call”.

The 18-year-old says she tried her hardest to be tough for the hike down. Which Fulton described as rocky, icy and for the last portion dark, but that she she couldn’t be tough the whole time; “that’s when Search and Rescue had to come and get us about two hours after our journey down”. Search and Rescue crews were able to drive up the forest service road and pick-up the pair.

When talking about taking to social media Fulton says she had the purist intentions; “all i wanted to do was try and promote safety, and encourage people to be safe”. After reading comments online she says ‘its grueling emotionally’.

Brown has spoken to Fulton’s parents, saying they were “obviously upset, they spent long hours worrying about their daughter, and they shouldn’t have had too”.

A statement from the company reminds the public that as the weather is changing and more people are out enjoying the trails, you should remember to check the last ride down prior to going out for a hike and to head onto the trails adequately prepared for fluctuating spring temperatures and slippery conditions.

The hiker says she was originally wanting to convey a message to the trail users about preparedness and trying to promote safety; “be prepared for absolutely anything when in the back-country” but is also advising the public to be prepared “for people to lack basic compassion… which I obviously didn’t prepare for”.



Filed under: Hike, Sea to Sky, Sea to Sky Gondola, Sea to Summit Trail, Squamish