Sunday, November 15, 2009

Original smokejumper, PJ trainer dies at 98

Earl Cooley, the Montanan smokejumper pioneer who also first trained USAF Pararescuemen, has died at 98 years of age in Missoula.

I spent a summer once fighting fire, and another working as a volunteer wilderness ranger for the Forest Service, and found out about smokejumping. Later, when I was at the UMT Forestry School's Wilderness Institute, I met a lot of former and current smokejumpers. One nice duty I drew was to take seniors on summer outings each Friday afternoon. One venue was the smokejumper base at the Missoula airport, where the seniors would get a tour and a talk from a jumper. I met a couple of the original jumpers, including a fellow who had been an Amishman before volunteering for smokejumper duty during WW2.

Later on I learned from guys I knew in Pararescue that there had been this contribution from the smokejumpers at the founding of the USAF service.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

UCSAR & Outing Club Tumbledown Mtn. Hike

On Sunday, November 8th, Unity College Search & Rescue and the Unity College Outing Club sponsored a hiking trip up Tumbledown Mountain in Weld, ME.

The mountain stands at 3,068ft. At the top, Tumbledown pond is the third highest pond in elevation in the state of Maine.

The hike began up the Loop trail, which took us across the top of the mountain and to Tumbledown pond, to the Brook trail which led us down the mountain. The hike was approximately 5 miles.

Along the Loop Trail stands a very large rock that is estimated to weight as much as a Naval destroyer. The north side of the rock has yet to be climbed. Here, Ryan attempts to conquer the 40+ foot rock on the north side.

Ryan easily scaled the south side of the rock. His technique for getting back down was quite interesting. A large birch tree standing next to the rock proved to be the best method for getting down off the rock. Much like a treed black bear, Ryan shimmied down the birch tree to the bottom of the rock-it was quite impressive to watch!

Trying to get Ryan's dog Minet up the last part of the Loop trail was a concern at the beginning of the hike. Near the summit, the trail leads you between a series of boulders which you must climb up through. However, by placing a person inside the boulder cavern, one person on the top of the cavern and one at the bottom, Minet was passed up through with relative ease.

At the junction of the Loop Trail and the Brook Trail is a separate trail heading off towards the west. Note that the sign behind Ryan and Minet states, 'This trail is difficult and not recommended for children or dogs'. Minet must have hiked 4x the distance we did as she would get far ahead of us, come back down the mountain to make sure we were okay, and head back up again. I slipped a few times during the hike, but not once did she.

Tumbledown has some spectacular views, and even has a few spots at the top where you can do some bouldering.

Josh and Tim helped keep the trail clean by picking up trash left behind by other hikers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Joint high angle training, Acadia National Park

Members of Unity College Search & Rescue attended a joint high angle rescue training session today in Acadia National Park. Other attending teams included Mount Desert Island Search & Rescue, Wilderness Rescue Team and Lincoln Search & Rescue.

Scenarios were held near the Precipice trailhead off of the park Loop Road.

I apologize for the lack of action shots; the only time I was able to take pictures was during lunch break, and towards the end of the session. I will do my best to convey the day to you in words.

The pictures you see of the rescuers in the boulder field are of a scenario in which a hiker has injured themselves while climbing amongs the rocks. The group was tasked with bringing the injured hiker down from the top of the boulder field as the hiker had a broken leg. Despite the large size of the rocks, they were not very steady, and made lots of noise when they rolled down the incline out from under your feet.

Using a litter to carry a patient out in this type of situation could be done, but would certainly be dangerous to both the patient and the rescuers. As seen in both these photos, the victim is at the very top of the boulder field. It was approximately 100yds from the bottom of the rock face to where the victim was located. Scrambling over rocks with a litter would be very challenging. How would you rescue the victim in a similar scenario?

The team decided the best way to handle the situation would be to tie a line from the tree near the victim to another tree at the bottom of the rock slope. The victim would be attached to the line, dangling above the rocks, and would be lowered down the line until they reached the bottom of the slope. A helicopter rescue from this location would not be feasible as the canopy cover is too great and the rocks would pose a threat to the helicopter's rotors.

These last two photos were taken during lunch break. We stood on top of a granite cliff approximately 40 ft in height, and practiced lowering and raising a patient in a litter. The system used included a belay line and a main line which interlocked above and in the center of the litter, tied in by a set of double prussics that were attached near the patient's head and feet. A pulley system was also collected to the litter attachment point which was used to adjust the litter if one side needed to be raised or lowered to keep the litter horizontal. The rescuer was attached to the main and belay lines also, and was responsible for manuevering the litter around and over obstacles.

On top of the cliff, the main and belay lines were anchored to trees via a karabiner, webbing, and a system of pulleys. Two sets of prussics attached to the pulleys acted as ratchets to hold the lines when the litter needed to be stopped. A 9 by 1 pulley system was set up on the main line to aid the rescuers who were pulling the litter, patient and rescuer up the side of the cliff. Initially, the rescuer was lowered down the cliff to the patient using a friction bar on the main line, which was replaced by the pulley system while the patient was packaged into the litter.

Once the litter neared the top of the cliff, a few adjustments had to be made in order to get the litter up and over. The vector pull technique was attempted first, which included two rescuers at the edge of the cliff lifting the main and belay lines vertically in order to direct the pulling force upwards rather than back towards the anchor points, and into the cliff face. As the combined weight of the rescuer and the victim was approx. 400lbs, this technique wasn't adequate. The v-strap technique was next utilized, which consisted of webbing being attached to the litter near the patient's feet. The strap was then attached to the pulley system, and the litter was hung vertically by the rescuer attending the patient. The litter was then raised vertically, with the v strap pulling the bottom of the litter upwards, which allowed for the litter to be tipped up and onto the top of the cliff edge.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

High Angle Rescue Training 2

On Wednesday, October 14th, 2009, the Unity College Search & Rescue team practiced high angle rescue training senarios at Camden Hills State Park, Maine. This consisted of repelling over rock faces singularly, and of performing tandem lowers with a patient in a stokes litter. The tandem lowering consisted of two rescuers moving the patient and litter around and over obstacles down the cliff, while two rescuers on top worked the rope lines securing the two rescuers and the patient. The tandem lowers were performed at Mainden Cliffs inside the park, which is approximately 80ft. high.

The training was led by Unity College Professor Mick Womersley, who has several years worth of search and rescue experience with the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service in the UK, as well as with county search and rescue teams in the U.S.

The following photos are of the Unity College Search & Rescue team members who attended the training-