Archive for tag: Training events

Summit County Rescue Group's 35th Annual Avalanche Rescue Seminar

On December 4th and 5th, the Summit County Rescue Group will hold their 35th Annual Avalanche Rescue Seminar.  This seminar is designed specifically for members of Search and Rescue groups, and includes one day of classroom instruction and one day of field work.  Basic and advanced levels will be offered.

Download the 2010 brochure for registration information and details.

Chinese mountain rescue team visit a success

SMA visit Colin 5

Members of the Sichuan Mountaineering Association (SMA), who were visiting Colorado from the Sichuan province of China this week, pose with members of the Summit County Rescue Group after a successful joint training exercise on Quandary Peak.  Photo by Colin Dinsmore of the Summit County Rescue Group.

Chinese rescue team visiting Colorado

Sichuan province

The Sichuan province is in South Central China

A group of eight mountain rescuers from the Sichuan Province in China will visit Colorado from September 11 - 15, 2010, on a US State Department-sponsored search and rescue exchange. The visitors, who are members of the Sichuan Mountaineering Association (SMA), will visit with Boulder-based Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG) and the Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG) for an exchange of skills and experience in responding to mountain rescue emergencies.

The Sichuan province contains a vast alpine region with many peaks rising over 7000 meters. SMA was the initial mountain rescue team that responded to the 2009 search and rescue attempt for Boulder climbers Jonny Copp, Micah Dash and Wade Johnson in the Mt Edgar region of the Sichuan Province.

In addition to mountain rescue response in the popular tourist region of China, SMA has used their SAR skills to save countless lives during recent earthquakes in the province.

The current exchange was initiated by the Department of State consulate in Chengdu, China and is supported by the family of Wade Johnson, who perished along with Copp and Dash on Mt Edgar. The Johnson family directed a portion of the left over funds raised during the rescue effort in 2009 to support the travel of the SMA rescuers. The Johnson family said, "This rescue and training program is the perfect way to spend the funds that were raised through the generosity of many wonderful people and organizations; those who understand the spirit of the mountains and of those who seek to climb."

The US Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsoring the Chinese team during their visit to both Colorado and Washington State. State Department representative Chris Mrozowski said, "We know the SMA mountaineers are already doing heroic work in mountain and earthquake rescue in western China. This exchange is all about exposing them to more formal emergency preparedness, crisis management and initial response protocols, which are somewhat limited in Sichuan Province. The response from American rescue teams has been enthusiastic and their generosity will give the Chinese visitors a rapid immersion into mountain rescue response as it occurs in the U.S."

While in Colorado the SMA visitors will meet with local climbers who went to assist in the rescue attempt last year, and with the families of the deceased. The visitors will also meet with mission leaders from RMRG and SCRG to discuss and observe initial rescue response methods, research rescue equipment and techniques and participate in multiple rescue scenarios. While in Boulder SMA will participate in a mock high-angle rock climbing rescue in Eldorado Canyon with RMRG, after which they will travel to Summit County to participate in a mock alpine mountaineering rescue on Quandary Peak with SCRG.

Dan Lack, secretary/treasurer of the Rocky Mountain Region of the Mountain Rescue Association, and mission leader with RMRG said, "We think the Sichuan rescuers will learn a lot from observing our initial response and technical systems for mountain rescue here in Colorado. However we are also excited to learn from our Chinese colleagues. Elegant solutions to big problems always come from areas with limited resources, so we are excited to learn as much as we can from their experiences. Most importantly the Colorado SAR community believes we can form a lasting and beneficial collaboration with the SMA through an exchange such as this."

Directors of the Colorado Search and Rescue Board, the Rocky Mountain Region of the Mountain Rescue Association and members of several other Colorado SAR teams will also participate in this exchange.

Why we love helicopters

We are very fortunate in Colorado to have Saint Anthony's Flight For Life as a resource, not only to pick up our more serious patients, but also to help us get to where we need to be quickly. The programs are called Avalanche Deployment and Lift Ticket, and they are unique; nowhere else in the US do such programs exist.
The Avalanche Deployment Program allows the helicopter to fly an avalanche dog, a dog handler and a snow technician to the scene of an avalanche within minutes of the 911 call. Those minutes are critical for the possible survival of a buried avalanche victim.
The Lift Ticket program allows rescuers, one at a time, to fly in the helicopter to remote areas for the search or rescue of a lost or injured backcountry recreationalist. Valuable time can be saved when the patient or lost subject is many hours into the wilderness by foot. This time can be critical to the subject's survival, for example when there are serious injuries, or when hypothermia is setting in. It's a one-way ride, however, so rescuers must be prepared to hike back out.
SCRG members, and members of other mountain rescue teams around Colorado, must go through regular training in order to use this resource. For the dog handlers and snow technicians that participate in Avalanche Deployment, they must train monthly. For Lift Ticket participants, we must train annually. Our 2010 training session was held just last week, and consisted of a presentation by Flight For Life staff about safe helicopter operations, and then individual practice getting in and out of the helicopter safely and using the helmets and intercom system.
Our thanks to the Flight For Life staff! We know that many of the subjects we've rescued would have had far less of a chance for survival without the time you saved us.
Photo by Aaron Parmet.

SCRG members attend AVPro course

Hut 3

Imagine this: on the first day of an avalanche class, you're given a pre-test that has questions like, "A storm starts out with rain falling at all elevations for a period of two hours; the storm cools over the next six hours and puts 10 cm of snow on top. As the storm clears, the air becomes very cold, -16C, with moderate wind speeds. Three days later another storm deposits 20 cm of 10% density snow over the span of 27 hours. Stability is rated ________ because of ________."

Fortunately, questions like this don't make Aaron Parmet and Hunter Mortensen break out into a cold sweat the way they would for some others.
The American Avalanche Association's nine-day AVPro class is designed for ski patrollers, forecasters and professional guides who already have significant avalanche experience, and a detailed application process is necessary to get in. In fact, Aaron was the only one of 18 participants in the Telluride February class who did not have a paying job in an avalanche-related field. "I wanted to bring my avalanche education to the next level and deepen my understanding, so I can make better decisions as a rescuer and as a recreational leader," Aaron says. "I also wanted to be able to pass on what I learned to others."

For Hunter, who works full-time as a ski patroller for Breckenridge, the decision to attend the class needs no explanation. "The best part of the course for me," he comments, "was the sharing of best practices between patrollers and dog handlers."

The three full-time instructors for the course were Andy Gleason, a PhD candidate in snow science and former CAIC forecaster; Sarah Carpenter, owner of American Avalanche Institute in Jackson; and Denny Hogan, a retired forecaster/snow ranger.

The course began with a field rescue exercise involving three buried beacons, two dummies, a live burial, and a Recco tab. Both Aaron and Hunter agreed that while it was a fairly advanced scenario for most, it was a review for the two of them, the only volunteer mountain rescuers in the group. That was the only part of the course they labeled "basic", however.

It had snowed heavily, so on the second day participants shadowed Telluride ski patrollers on control routes. The highlight for Aaron, one of the few in the group who does not routinely do control work, was observing a Howitzer control mission using a Forest Service gun.

On the third day of the course, the group skied out a Telluride backcountry gate and stayed for two nights in the Alta Lakes Observatory, a backcountry lodge that exceeds the name "hut". Featuring running water, electricity, a hot tub and a piano, it was an ideal place for the group to kick back in the evenings with a beer and talk shop. Hunter comments, "I really think the instructors plan an overnight trip on purpose, in order to make sure we spend time truly relaxing and sharing ideas with each other. I learned a lot from talking to other patrollers." During the days, the focus was on route finding and snow pits, but the avalanche danger was rated so high that the group had to stay in the trees and on very low-angled slopes.

Classroom topics in the days following the hut trip included decision-making, controlled releases, fracture mechanics, spatial variability, slab thickness and propagation, limitations of formal stability tests, sintering following fracture, and skier triggering. A frequent speaker, among others, was Craig Sterbenz, Snow Safety Director for Telluride. And one of the most interesting and highly debated topics, according to both Hunter and Aaron, was snowpack dynamics and the decreasing reliability of skier compaction theory; especially because skis are trending wider now and tend to pack the snow less.

Toward the end of the class there were two more field tours at Ophir and Red Mountain Pass, where CAIC forecaster Susan Hale talked about issues in working with government agencies such as CDOT, and how she makes the tough decisions that lead to road closure recommendations.

On the last day of the course, participants took a 58-question written exam, a timed full-data snow pit test, and a beacon test, which involved finding three beacons in less than seven minutes in a 100 meter by 100 meter field. Both Aaron and Hunter passed with flying colors.
Asked who else in our group might be interested in taking a future AVPro class, Aaron responds, "People who are absolutely passionate about avalanche science." Hunter adds, "The person who is ready and willing to make the decision whether to send us into the field on an avalanche call is really who should take it. That's the hardest and most important decision that gets made on our team."
Photo: The Alta Lakes Observatory hut, by Aaron Parmet.

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