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.

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