This summer we have been able to deliver our educational training services to a number of agencies, despite the challenging conditions of operating in the age of Covid-19. Most agencies have numerous protocols and/or guidelines in place for allowing their personnel and our instructors to conduct rope rescue training events. We have been utilizing recommended CDC guidelines such as masks on in close proximity of each other and/or working inside, plenty of ventilation and spacing of seating arrangements while inside, temperature checks, readily available personal hygiene tools such as hand sanitizer, and the like.
Our recent week with Gallatin County SAR in Bozeman, Montana delivered bluebird weather, great site locations in Hyalite Canyon, and a thorough review of litter attending, pickoffs, as well as a big Guiding Line aerial suspension system. Like numerous other mountain rescue teams that we regularly train, Gallatin SAR has moved towards ATC-based (i.e. slot style climbing DCDs such as Petzl Reverso, Black Diamond ATC, etc.) systems as opposed to traditional brakeracks or Scarabs. These ATC systems are employed in combination with a VT Prusik Max/1 friction hitch in addition to a carabiner re-direct for additional friction.
The Main and Belay are rigged identically and they are operated according to the conditions present (i.e. 1-person or 2-person load? Technical edge transition Y/N?). Post edge transition, the systems are run in dual tension for the balance of the lowering and/or raising operation. Mountain rescue teams are frequently populated with personnel coming from a climbing background. The skills required for an ATC-based system are often already present. Everything from rigging to inspections, to operations is streamlined and arguably safer for all involved.