This past weekend, a multi-agency SAR training exercise convened on the classic SW Colorado multi-pitch ice climb, Stairway to Heaven. The scenario was designed as a pre-plan training for what would be a very challenging access/egress of an injured ice climber high on the route. A small hasty team of five climbers led and followed four pitches of ice climbing to gain a platform below the final pillar of ice. From there we packaged our mock patient in a litter complete with vacuum mattress and insulation – all of which were hauled up the route by the access team.
Two long lowers – complete with knot passes and station transitions – brought us to the base of the technical ice terrain. A team stationed near the base of the climb then transitioned to a long lowering operation to the edge of the gorge separating the ice climbing terrain from the road cut. This was followed by a rigged and waiting Kootenay Highline System across the gorge to the receiving party on the far side, where a snowmobile was positioned for egress to the ambulance.
All told there were four different local SAR teams involved and over 25 participants. It was a great training exercise that challenged everyone involved. We strive to schedule some of these more involved multi-agency training projects from time to time. It always manages to reinforce the concept that you do not rise to the challenge, but rather sink to the level of your training.