It is difficult to estimate how many people are alive today because of Karl Winter.
Winter, one of the founding members and a mainstay of North Shore Rescue, passed away on December 31.
“Karl was just a legendary man. It was a mountain of men, ”said North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks.
In 1965, Winter, along with brothers Gerry and Dave Brewer, was among those who responded to an ad in the North Shore Citizen seeking volunteers for an emergency preparedness team. During the Cold War, authorities wanted a trained group ready to deploy should a nuclear attack cause buildings to collapse.
The attack never happened, but in 1968, however, they were tasked with locating a young climber who died in a fall from Goat Mountain.
“It took us two days to recover the body,” said Gerry Brewer. “It made us realize that we need to take a more serious approach to mountaineering and mountain rescue.”
Winter was already a world-class mountaineer, and he was able to introduce the skills and practices he learned in his native Germany.
“Everything we have done has been done the hard way. There was no helicopter. No snowmobile. You hung around all night until you found the person, ”Brewer said. “Today they are doing in three hours what we did in two days.”
In addition to completing hundreds of missions in the North Shore backcountry and beyond, Winter has helped the team adopt new equipment and practices, making the team what is now one of the busiest and most sophisticated volunteer search and rescue teams in Canada.
In the field, he regularly carried casualties and incredibly heavy equipment over difficult terrain on his back.
“His physical endurance and strength is unmatched in anyone I’ve climbed,” said Brewer.
Winter has reached, or at least attempted, most of the major mountain peaks of the world, where it has often been commissioned to aid in the rescue of strangers in uncharted territory.
“It looks like if you have the skills, you will be in demand wherever you are,” he said.
His generosity extended beyond the rescues. On his return from a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro, he gathered as many excess relief supplies as he could and paid to have them shipped to the ill-equipped Tanzanian mountain guides. After climbing in Nepal, he and his wife Mary took in a young Nepalese and sponsored him to become a Canadian citizen.
“That’s the kind of person Karl was. He gave more than he ever received, ”said Brewer.
As a rescuer, Winter felt compelled to help, knowing how merciless it is to be hurt, stranded or lost in the bitter nature, said Brewer.
The one time he himself had needed rescue, Winter and three other climbers were right by Denali Peak when they were caught in a severe storm. He volunteered to descend to a lower cache of supplies and return with equipment that would help them stay alive until the storm passes and rescuers arrive from Anchorage.
“He was very empathetic for the circumstances people find themselves in when they are missing or have been in an accident,” he said. “Because we’ve had accidents. We have experienced it. We know how overwhelming it is for a person. … It didn’t matter what time of day, what day of the week – birthdays, anniversaries. If the bell rang, he was still there.
Having such a committed volunteer for a dad meant he wasn’t always around, his son Greg said, but Winter shared his love of outdoor adventure with his family.
“It was just like that from day one… I kind of respected him for that,” he said. “He was just a determined guy, and nothing really stopped him in his pursuit.”
Greg followed in his father’s crampons, serving with North Shore Rescue from 1999 to 2017.
Winter was a member in good standing of North Shore Rescue for 57 years. When he was no longer able to bushwhack, as he called it, he oversaw construction and maintenance projects, did administrative work, public events and fundraisers, and supervised. new members.
“He wouldn’t look for any credit. He was incredibly strong. He was patient with everyone, ”Danks said. “There is no one who can replace Karl.”
In his working life, Winter installed massive sliding doors for industrial operations, where he used his mountaineering skills, sometimes hanging 40 feet off the ground and welding parts together.
He and Mary were also internationally recognized breeders of Saint Bernard, a dog popularly associated with mountain rescues in the Alps.
Greg said his father was never one to brag about his accomplishments around the home, and he was stunned by the stories that are now coming out of his friends and colleagues.
“I’m just blown away by the outpouring of the community,” he said. “It was quite shocking and quite incredible. “