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Postby Greg Enright » Fri Sep 25, 2009 7:11 am

In a lot of ways, the system we have in the US is the best system for the US. Local county Sheriffs are responsible for SAR, and they usually use teams of volunteers to perform the actual operations. This works well because the locals know the area and associated hazards better than a large agency would. The problem is that many Sheriffs are not good at running SAR and have no desire to learn. Handing the responsibility over to local fire departments could bring a much needed change in attitude and competence, but there could be complications with investigations and probably a few other things I can't think of.

It is frustrating that military resources have not been used when they could have made a difference, but those instances are rare. Helicopters are not needed in most SAR operations, and the helicopters that do get called can do the job most of the time. That said, I have seen occasions where the helicopter resource that did respond could not do the rescue or had a low attention span during a search. Clearly the best helo crews that responded to SARs in my experience were from the Navy. I can't say enough about the stuff those crews from Fallon did for folks here in the Eastern Sierra.

The CHP (highway patrol) helicopters have probably rescued more sick and injured people in the Eastern Sierra than any other responders. But they can't pull off some of the more difficult rescues, and they don't seem interested in searching for very long. That's where the military helos do a better job, but the response time from any base to the Sierra can be over an hour. You better have your wilderness medical skills training if there are serious injuries.

I have a lot of respect for those who believe in self rescue and have actually dragged themselves or a partner out. Yeah, I've done it too. But rescue teams love helping folks get out of a bad situation, and you are not considered weak or incompetent because you had to call for help. As Rick pointed out, many very experienced mountaineers have been rescued. The more time you spend in the mountains, the higher the chance that your shit will hit the fan some day.
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Postby Day Hiker » Sat Sep 26, 2009 7:05 am

Dingus Milktoast wrote:Day Hiker, is it ligit that Peter Croft does grade VI free solo traverses in the Sierra with just a chalk bag? When the rest of us would be 'safe' saddled with all sorts of gear?

I think that is a workable enough analogy to answer your question.... if the person chosing to assume risk with eyes wide open, then, well, ya takes yer chances.

If someone runs Whitney in shorts without any consideration at all for emergencies they might be likened to a fool however. Plenty of fools on Whitney.


I realized I never answered this. But I admit I don't know enough about the Peter Croft situation you describe to give an educated answer.

My observation of unprepared people has been on the places you might guess: highly-traveled class-1, like the Whitney trail and Grand Canyon's main corridor trails.

The Grand Canyon is a great trap for those that don't know what they're doing. If you're hiking a mountain, and you are too tired or out of shape to go further, you walk downhill back to your car. But in GC, the second half is uphill. People are surprised to see how hot it can be down low and how cold it can be near the rim -- all on the same day. In the summer, it's near 110F at the bottom during the day and then in the 40s near the North Kaibab trailhead at night.

Regarding satellite phones mentioned in the O.P., are those things even affordable for someone not using it for a business?
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Postby butitsadryheat » Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:18 am

Day Hiker wrote:Regarding satellite phones mentioned in the O.P., are those things even affordable for someone not using it for a business?

You can rent them by the day/week. Relatively affordable.
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Postby silversummit » Sat Sep 26, 2009 4:54 pm

I wasn't climbing but solo hiking on a trail at Rainier with plenty of people around last month when I slipped off the trail at a tight spot and fell down about 30 feet of scree. Ended up getting advice from people 'above' on the trail about how to walk out of the mess I was in. They waited for me to hike back up to the trail and I continued.

But after the initial shock of the fall wore off I realized I had really messed up my right ankle etc. No choice but to hike the rest of the trail down which was 2+ miles. I did it in great pain. I also thought it was just a bad sprain which I have had before.

Got back to the Visitors Center; met my husband, cleaned up my bad scrapes and cuts and that night did the RICE thing. After hobbling around at Rainier and then at work, home for 11 days an x-ray showed a break in 2 places.

I agree with others, it was a matter of pride! After all, I could still walk and no bone was sticking out! I would have felt really stupid having somebody come and "rescue me" since I have been hiking for 50 years plus I know they can't do much until swelling goes down.
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Postby MoapaPk » Sat Sep 26, 2009 5:47 pm

Galen Rowell used to run to White Mountain to keep in shape. Probably few stopped and lectured him about the 10 essentials.
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Postby rhyang » Tue Sep 29, 2009 8:05 pm

butitsadryheat wrote:
rhyang wrote:So where's my Llama Hauler pic dude ? Don't you be holding out on me ! :lol:


For you Rob...you may want to make an offer :wink:

Image


You da man ! :lol:
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Postby MarthaP » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:52 am

silversummit wrote:I wasn't climbing but solo hiking on a trail at Rainier with plenty of people around last month when I slipped off the trail at a tight spot and fell down about 30 feet of scree. Ended up getting advice from people 'above' on the trail about how to walk out of the mess I was in. They waited for me to hike back up to the trail and I continued.

But after the initial shock of the fall wore off I realized I had really messed up my right ankle etc. No choice but to hike the rest of the trail down which was 2+ miles. I did it in great pain. I also thought it was just a bad sprain which I have had before.

Got back to the Visitors Center; met my husband, cleaned up my bad scrapes and cuts and that night did the RICE thing. After hobbling around at Rainier and then at work, home for 11 days an x-ray showed a break in 2 places.

I agree with others, it was a matter of pride! After all, I could still walk and no bone was sticking out! I would have felt really stupid having somebody come and "rescue me" since I have been hiking for 50 years plus I know they can't do much until swelling goes down.


Great perspective, silver. You carry the essential philosophy along with most of us - get yourself into it, get yourself out of it.

How's that ankle doing?
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Postby norco17 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:16 am

I feel that when you go into the hills it is your responsibility to get your ass out on your own power. If you can not get yourself out of whatever you got into then you should not be there. I have never needed help from an outside group and have never had to give help to another group(I would if they needed it). I think that many look at SAR the same way they look at lifeguards. They think that just because there is one there it is safe to swim when in reality there is no guarantee that they will make it in time.

I will say however that EMS, SAR, etc. has the duty and obligation to respond if they are capable of safely doing so. What chief went through was bullshit. Not saying that the person would have lived if they had sent a helicopter, but it would have been nice to have had any available one sent.
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Postby drjohnso1182 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:29 am

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
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Postby Diggler » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:12 pm

Self rescue is great & all that, & should be performed whenever possible, but sometimes shit really does hit the fan, & you might just not make it if it weren't for the help of 'strangers.' See Harding & Rowell on the S face of Half Dome for an example- if those guys didn't know what they were doing, no-one else does either...
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Postby surgent » Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:16 pm

Diggler wrote:Self rescue is great & all that, & should be performed whenever possible, but sometimes shit really does hit the fan, & you might just not make it if it weren't for the help of 'strangers.' See Harding & Rowell on the S face of Half Dome for an example- if those guys didn't know what they were doing, no-one else does either...


This has been a fascinating, revealing thread.

There is most definitely a big line between getting in trouble and the sh*t really hitting the fan. You'll know the difference when/if it happens to you. Having sprains, torn ligaments and even some breaks is one thing, being completely immobilized is another.

I was with SAR for 6 years (Central Arizona MRU). It bears repeating that (a) local control of SAR is ideal, usually at the county level, and that (b) most, if not all SAR personnel, are volunteer.

There should be no shame in calling for SAR if it means getting out or not getting out. We had plenty of "embarrassed" people after evac, but we didn't care, as long it was a successful evac. Again, if you really find yourself in a bad situation (and you'll know), don't let embarrassment or the fear of cost keep you from calling SAR.

Re: military. It is my understanding there are rules against allowing military to enter into otherwise state or county enforcement/SAR issues (the Posse Comitatus Act 1878). It may be that local military bases have an MOU with the county/SAR to be called out if need be, but the call likely has to be made at the county level... their hands are tied until then. I'll admit I don't know all the details here. I think the concern would be that the military would come to be expected to help out in all cases. I know this topic came up at our meetings occasionally. My wife's step-father, a retired Lt Gen (Army), confirmed most of the major points of this act to me, although he himself was not sure how special cases may be made at local state/county levels with MOUs, etc.

All climbers/hikers/flower-looker-atters should at least spend a day at a SAR open house or meeting (we held them all the time) to learn just what SAR is all about.
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