About Rigging for Rescue

Rigging for Rescue offers technical ropework seminars renowned for their focus on applying the critical thinking and systems analysis skills required to competently incorporate ropework and rigging into effective rescue systems. For more information visit www.riggingforrescue.com

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mount Desert Island, Maine

The Rigging for Rescue tour of beautiful training venues on the Atlantic Ocean continued with a visit to Mount Desert Island, Maine.  The federal government opened up in the nick of time for us to enjoy a day of training out at Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park. The geology at Otter Cliffs offers very dramatic 90 degree edge transitions which very much lends itself to a vertically-oriented stretcher.

We engaged in some healthy discussions during the classroom sessions addressing the pros/cons of horizontal versus vertical stretcher orientation. The are a number of compelling decision points to consider including the patient injuries and level of responsiveness, rockfall hazard, space limitations to the terrain, difficulty of the edge transition, and other factors. Many of the sites we encountered had features present that warranted a vertically-oriented stretcher in a high angle environment.  This is perhaps too often discounted as a viable option due to perceived comfort issues for the patient as well as potential injury exacerbation.

There are a number of patient packaging 'tricks of the trade' that aid not only in general comfort, but also with patient security, protection of existing injuries, and general safety. The mock patients during this training all weighed in favorably when discussing patient comfort and security in the debriefs.  This sentiment is pretty consistent in not only RfR trainings that we conduct, but also in real rescues in which we have participated as volunteers on our own SAR teams.

I don't know if I'll ever get another run of splitter weather like this past September and October managed to deliver in the North Atlantic.  Sea cliffs are a lot more friendly when the rain isn't coming in sideways. Thanks to MDI SAR for a great week of training!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Self Rescue and Small Team Workshop

We recently hosted the Self Rescue and Small Team Response Workshop at our base of operations in Ouray, Colorado.  This was the second time ever that we have offered this training on an open enrollment basis. 

The participant mix was a diverse group consisting of previous RfR attendees as well as some folks new to our training programs; there were firefighters, climbers, and NPS climbing rangers in attendance. Just like any Rigging for Rescue seminar, we conducted a thorough interview process at the outset in order to gather as much information as possible as to what the participants expected and wished to see included in the workshop curriculum.  It came as no surprise that the topics and techniques covered in this years workshop deviated appreciably from what was covered in the 2012 workshop.  At Rigging for Rescue, it is our unyielding belief that adult education in a technical subject matter needs to be conducted in such a manner that there is flexibility in the curriculum, an inquiry-based methodology to the approach, and plenty of hands-on opportunities.  

The workshop followed a progression of:

1. Be able to manage yourself in a high angle environment (ascend; descend)
2. Be able to rescue your partner in a climbing scenario (rescue the second and the leader)
3. Be able to operate in a team-based approach with a minimum of personnel

The initial field scenarios focused on simple belay escapes and transfers of tension. We then progressed into more complex scenarios involving partner rescue in a variety of settings.  The highlight came towards the end of the week with the rescue of a leader fall followed by a multi-pitch egress using team-based rescue tactics. 

During the final workshop debrief, two of the participants offered that it was the "best course ever" and another weighed in that if you venture into back-country multi-pitch terrain, it should be mandatory to take a class like this one and possess the requisite skills for partner rescue in a climbing scenario.  

Below are some photos of our multi-pitch exercise on a spectacular autumn day in the San Juan Mountains near Ouray, Colorado.  

Seconding in multi-pitch terrain


Rescue the Leader with counter-balance rappel 

Ouray, Colorado

Station management in multi-pitch terrain

Monday, September 23, 2013

Westman Islands, Iceland

The high pressure in the North Atlantic continued unabated for another RfR seminar.  This one was hosted by Ice Sar and held in Vestmannaeyjar (aka Westman Islands) off the SW coast of Iceland.  The training sites were abundant and diverse.  Exercises included stretcher work, pickoffs, specialty techniques like the Pike 'n Pivot, a long Guiding Line, and a multi-pitch steep slope evacuation.

The anchoring in Iceland is often unique and somewhat improvised.  To contend with the sub-optimal rock quality and a lack of sizable vegetation anchors - btw, as the local advice goes, if you get lost in an Icelandic forest, just stand up - rescue teams have devised a variety of anchoring methods and tools including ground stakes and angled aluminum wedges for pounding into the turf.  Get enough of anything and you can improvise a solid anchor. 

On one of our raising scenarios, the lines were 'trenching' into the turf due to a low mainline focal point and some convex terrain between that focal point and the edge.  Fighting all of that extra friction made it very difficult to raise the load back up.  Additionally, advancing the Prusik rope grab for the next raise became a real chore.  It reminded me of some of the same challenges in a crevasse rescue scenario when your lines cut into the snow/ice.  I showed them a simple and effective solution which was to move a large stone to the top of the convex roll and anchor some edge protection on top of the stone (see image below). This caused the ropes to 'float' and alleviated the suffering on the mainline haul team. 

Use of a boulder high directional

Fore!!  Playing through...

165m Guiding Line


Difficult edge transitions

Icelandic high directional

Scenic spot for training

Pike 'n Pivot

The Westmans

Monday, September 16, 2013

Faroe Islands - Rigging for Rescue Seminar

What a fantastic experience I recently had conducting an RfR training on the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.  The Faroes are located pretty well equidistant between Iceland and Scotland.  I was anticipating ‘full battle conditions’ with the weather, but it turned out to be an incredibly benign week with almost no wind, sunny skies, and mild temps. Quite a treat.

Over the past 12 months, the SAR team there has taken on the supreme challenge of founding a new team from scratch, acquiring equipment, training, and dedicated team members.  They were fortunate to get some good guidance from their neighbors at ICE-SAR in Iceland.  However, most of the credit goes to them and their commitment to the task at hand. 

Hosting a Rigging for Rescue seminar was treated internally as their team graduation week.  They had the training scheduled nearly 9 months ago. They now feel skilled and confident in their rope rescue proficiency and in short order will be added to the emergency dispatch system in the Faroes.  It was an empowering week for the team members and we at RfR felt honored to play a small role in their ongoing education in the craft of technical rescue.

The week wrapped up with a great party hosted in the galley of a large sailing vessel moored in the harbor of the capital city of Torshavn.  What better way to wrap up a week of training than a party on a boat complete with Irish folk songs?

Rescue raises on a scenic sea cliff

Looks like a PMP, but is actually a GEP (Grass Eating Pulley)

Nice scenery for training if you have the weather

Hang loose Hawai'i?  No, the Faroes!

Slope work

Kootenay Highline System

Comparing/contrasting vertical vs. horizontal litter orientation

Friday, June 28, 2013

Update & Beyond in Ouray

Last week we hosted a Rigging for Rescue 'Update & Beyond' Seminar, open to previous Rigging for Rescue seminar participants. As usual, we had a great crew and beautiful weather, and we capitalized on both to accomplish some fantastic field exercises. We also had the pleasure of hosting three international participants: two from the Ontario Provincial Police and one from the Khumbu Climbing Center in Nepal. Thanks for making the trip to Ouray!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rigging for Rescue in South Africa

We recently wrapped up a rope rescue training workshop in the Gauteng province of South Africa.  We had conducted a similar Rigging for Rescue program down in Cape Town in 2010. One of the participants from that workshop, Rob Thomas, runs a mountain guiding and rescue training company called the School for Mountain Leadership here in South Africa. We had approached him many months ago about the possibility of doing a workshop while we were in-country and he enthusiastically agreed to make the arrangements.

Our training session was based in the Magaliesberg Mountains north of Joburg.  The Magaliesberg is an ancient mountain range with beautiful, hard quartzite rock.  The rock climbing, by the way, is superb! The workshop consisted of 12 participants from various rescue agencies around the country.  It was a keen group and we had a terrific week of training.

Rob put the Gibbs Family up in a nice log cabin near the training site. We used the cabin as the classroom facility and also the group mess hall. It was awesome to be able to train and socialize with the South African participants. Whenever we conduct an RfR training abroad there are opportunities to gain insights into risk management preferences, decision making methodology, and of course equipment and technique differences. As Rob said during the workshop, "if you are not learning, you are not growing." Well said.  Thanks again for a memorable week!

Monday, February 4, 2013

New Course Offering!

Finding Balance: Patient Care in Technical Rescue

A specialized 3-day intensive workshop for previous RfR participants focusing on:
  • a critical thinking approach to effective leadership, size-up, teamwork, and putting it all together in a technical rescue as it pertains to patient care and evacuation
  • finding balance in efficiently meshing the medical aspects of patient care and the movement of the patient in technical terrain
This hands-on interactive workshop is tailored for medical/rescuers tasked with the patient access, care, and evacuation components of a given rescue in technical terrain. As we all know, an often overlooked aspect of rope rescue training is giving participants an opportunity to efficiently find balance with the medical aspects of a given patient care scenario and the actual movement of that patient in difficult terrain. Through thoughtful discussion, pertinent case studies, and hands-on application we will explore a variety of realistic patient care challenges in difficult terrain. We will then combine that with safely moving the patient, as a team, in the mountain rescue environment. CEs will be available.

Workshop participants can count on exploring a wide variety of topics and techniques including:
  • the importance of exemplary patient assessment skills for the medical/rescuer
  • patient care considerations in a variety of scenarios in the difficult terrain environment
  • patient securing and packaging considerations in a variety of settings and scenarios
  • efficient use of medical /rescue equipment and personnel in a given technical rescue
  • recognition of what interventions “really make a difference” for most patients in difficult terrain rescues
  • stretcher orientation and attending considerations
  • medical kits / new equipment
  • BLS/ALS considerations and limitations in technical rescue
  • pain management and medication delivery options
  • safely improvising and adapting in patient care and rescue
  • a reinforcement of safe, timely and efficient rope rescue techniques and principles utilized in moving the patient in both steep and high angle settings
  • safe helicopter interface
The above list is not exhaustive, nor is it a checklist. While we provide a curriculum, the techniques, equipment, and personal experiences that you and your team bring make this and every Rigging for Rescue workshop or seminar a custom experience. All field training scenarios will be in and around Ouray, Colorado.

Secure your place early as this workshop will fill quickly!

Dates: August 30-September 1, 2013
Course fee: $600
This course is only available to previous Rigging for Rescue participants