About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

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Rock Rescue Academy

That time of year is drawing near: Rock Rescue Academy will begin in one month, and this time around, I'm going to jump in. I'm a little jittery about it, though. Will I be able to learn the skills well enough? Will I be able to keep up? There are some very experienced, fast, and strong men in the group and one other woman who certainly fits that description. Many of the skills are new to me, and I've never been particularly quick at picking up such hands-on things like knot-tying, for one. I'll need to practice—often.

So, what is the Rock Rescue Academy? Well, it's the basic training course—a series of classroom and field sessions over about a month's time—that anyone who wants to become a member of the technical rescue team (TRT) must successfully complete.

The TRT is a subset of our general SAR team, and those particular members are expected to respond as often as possible to call-outs for technical missions. The TRT responds to incidents generally beyond the capabilities of the rest of the membership, such as high angle and high alpine rescue and missions that take place in difficult terrain, which means these volunteers are sometimes exposed to additional risk. This is why the TRT meets and trains on a monthly basis, and each person on that team must prove their competence with the skills annually to maintain membership.

Last year, I don't believe there were any new recruits to the TRT. Although I'd considered it, I ultimately felt I wasn't ready—that I needed more time to practice and get comfortable with the basics of SAR before taking on more technical skills. This year, I know I'm more capable and ready to give it a try, and I hear that several other general members, also known as ground-pounders, will be joining me in the tech academy for the first time.

Those of us interested in being tech team members have already received a list of special gear we'll need. That list includes:
  • Commercially sewn seat harness
  • Commercially sewn chest harness or webbing for a chest harness
  • 6-inch locking carabiners
  • Climbing helmet
  • Descender
  • 8mm Tandem Prusik set
  • Various lengths of Prusiks with a diameter no less than 6mm
  • Two 1" multi-loop straps (or daisy chains) approximately 5" long
  • Sturdy footwear (boots, not trail runners)
  • Leather gloves
  • Headlamp
  • Trauma sheers or knife
Given that I own only two of those items and don't even know yet what some of the others are, I'd better get on the stick and start doing my homework... and spending money. I also need to step up my fitness training in preparation for the "3 miles in 45 minutes with a 45-pound pack" test (just in case).

Well, I'm out the door in a few minutes to meet a teammate. He and I are setting up a GPS field course for the upcoming three-day "navigation boot camp" our team is running for other agencies at the beginning of May. Perhaps this is also the time I should upgrade from my beloved 10-year-old GPS to a fancy-dancy new model. Oy, more money heading out the door, too.