These are my stories as a volunteer member of the Sheriff's Search & Rescue team in Coconino County, Arizona. I'll share what it's like to go from a beginner with a lot to learn to an experienced and, hopefully, valuable member of the team, as well as the missions, trainings, and other activities along the way.
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.
July 20, 2009
And More Practice
Anyway, here I've rigged myself up for the ascent with my rappel rack attached to my harness, ready for the changeover and a Prusik for a self-belay. My teammate, Marty, then does a safety check before I go up the rope.
But we don't have to go up very far to practice the changeover.
Here, I've rigged up my rappel rack and tied it off. Now I have to transfer the weight off my ascenders and onto the rack before I can descend. Sometimes, that's easier said than done. Can you see I've been sweating on this attempt?
See the reflection on this one? My husband was getting creative with our point-and-shoot.
This coming weekend, we have another field session where we'll learn how to do pick-offs--that is, how to pick someone off a cliff or wall and bring them to the ground (or back up, I suppose) without the use of a litter, in the event their injuries aren't serious or they're perhaps just stranded somehow.
I'm also ordering some gear, including an actual rescue harness rather than the recreational climbing harness I've been using (which just doesn't cut it for rescue work), a commercially sewn chest harness rather than the improvised one I'd made of webbing, a couple of Prusik sets, a helmet and some locking carabiners. It was okay to use team gear for the Academy, but we need to have some of our own equipment for the proficiency test and beyond, if we want to be active members of the Tech Team. Which I want to be.
"This coming weekend, we have another field session where we'll learn how to do pick-offs--that is, how to pick someone off a cliff or wall and bring them to the ground (or back up, I suppose) without the use of a litter, in the event their injuries aren't serious or they're perhaps just stranded somehow."
It appears as though a rescuer, solo on a rope, can do the "pick someone off a cliff or wall." Are they brought to the ground on the same rope? "(or back up, I suppose [???])" I'm thinking they must be--or not, depending on how rich the rescuer is with available gear. Now I'm curious as to how you'll secure the person in trouble into harness and onto the rope, especially if the person is scared, weary, injured but not so much that a stretcher is needed. (Hanging high on a rope for the first time could be terrifying. I remember my first rappel many moons ago. I loved it but I was belayed by a 1st class Yosemite climber.)
I'm looking forward to seeing how you accomplish all the above. I can't think of anything more delicate, exhausting, punishing/deadly should one of so many human behavior variables take a turn for the not-so-good.
Your photos sure add to your description of how it all works. Your SAR page has become a favorite of mine. What a hard worker you are, Ramkitten! :o)
I hope you're finding time for your second novel, or whatever you might churning out word-wise besides your wonderful blogs.
"See the reflection on this one? My husband was getting creative with our point-and-shoot."
That good guy certainly does like lenses & mirrors, doesn't he? (Hey, look at the mustached dude with the pink camera! j/k, of course)
Heads up: A Wall of White, Jennifer Woodlief. A well written true account of humongous avalanche disaster/tragedy, 1982, Alpine Meadow Ski Resort (near Tahoe, CA). I used to ski whenever I could (could afford it, ha!), and Alpine Meadow was a fun, friendly, family-type, mountain cirque to go play in the snow. In 1982 I followed this series of shocking events in absolute disbelief.
Ya know? This isn't a comment, it's an email. If you'd rather I present it that way, please holler. You have my email addy.
Hey Thanks, Deb,
LOL ... I love your comments. And it's cool that they're public ... or I wouldn't have too many! :)
Anyhoo, about those pick-offs. I just learned how to do them for the first time the other night, and it'll certainly take some practice. We learned how to do it when the victim is on a rope and in a harness (aka "supported") and if they don't have a harness and/or aren't on a rope ("unsupported".) If they are on a line of their own, part of the procedure involves getting their weight off of that line and onto the rescuer's main line.
If there's no harness, we have webbing that we can fashion into both a chest and a seat harness while hanging there beside/behind the victim.
A pick-off will either be team-based, meaning the rescuer gets lowered (and possibly raised if there's some reason they can't be lowered the rest of the way to the ground with the victim), or rappel-based, where the rescuer has to rappel down. If rappelling, the rescuer has to first lock off their descending device and then get the victim all hooked into the system before unlocking and rappelling with the victim the rest of the way.
In all scenarios, we were using a second line for a belay (a safety backup rope), both for the rescuer and the victim. So there's at least one other person at the top, manning that belay.
And about the victim freaking out ... we discussed that too, and worked on both verbal strategies and saw how the system we use can enable the rescuer to secure the victim in place and separate from that person if need be, to protect the rescuer's neck, basically.
So now look who's writing an email! Well, I'll try to get some photos of the pick-off set-up sometime or find some videos for the blog. Some of this stuff is a challenge to explain.
Oh, and thanks for the book recommendation. I'm always looking for good rescue and survival-type reading.
And, lastly, that second novel:
A Picket Fence in Pawpaw" :) But available only as a Kindle book on Amazon right now. Soon to be a downloadable PDF once I figure that out. Maybe someday in softcover like the first.
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