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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Black Canyon NPS - mutual aid rescue assist

All of the Ouray-based Rigging for Rescue instructors also serve as volunteers on the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team.  A little over a week ago, our team got a call from the Black Canyon National Park climbing rangers to help in a very large and technical rescue of an injured climber.  

The climber had dislodged a large rock mass on themselves while climbing on the Atlantis Wall. They sustained multiple injuries and their lower leg fracture prevented them from self-rescuing from the depths of the canyon.  Their climbing partner was able to scramble out the access gulley and place the 9-1-1 call.

We all gathered at the north rim ranger station at first light the next morning.  A medic and ranger had spent the night with the injured party.  The rescue team was comprised of around 20+ volunteers from Ouray Mountain Rescue, Western State, and West Elk along with a handful of rangers from the Black Canyon.

The patient was stranded at the base of the Atlantis Wall approximately 500m down from the canyon rim. We linked three 183m ropes together for each the main and belay. The terrain involved a 100m vertical cliff at the top to a large terrace followed by a 400m lower down the primary wall.  We used a mechanical advantage tagline system to draw the stretcher across the flat terrace during the initial descent and then had to reverse that on the raise with a descent control system.

All told it took around 10 hours to build the system, lower an attendant and stretcher down the wall, and raise the patient/attendant back up to the top of the rim.  The weather was atrocious with sideways snow and very cold temps.  The scale alone made it probably the biggest rope rescue I have been involved in and the weather just took the whole operation to the 'epic' stage.  Type II fun if you are familiar with that metric.

It was quite the effort. Kudos to all that were involved.

Beginning the initial descent

Patient nearing the top edge transition

View of the changing fall line at the terrace

Taking it 

Denali NPS seminar in Valdez, Alaska

Recently, we returned from our annual pre-season training with the Denali NPS climbing rangers.  Rigging for Rescue has been conducting this training each year since 2001.

This year we based out of Valdez, Alaska.  The terrain around Valdez is superb and ranges from excellent ice climbs to easily accessible glaciers as well as the famous snow slopes off of Thompson Pass.

The ranger cadre uses this training as a means of tuning up their glacier travel, crevasse rescue skills, and team-based rope rescue techniques in advance of the Denali climbing season.  We covered a variety of challenging scenarios including multi-pitch access/egress to a stricken climber, traversing a steep snow slope with a loaded stretcher, pendulum falls into crevasses, and specialized edge transition techniques.

The training also included members of the 212th Pararescue Team (PJs) out of Anchorage.  The PJs often serve as medics on the Denali climbing patrols. 

It is always a privilege to work with such a skilled group of practitioners in the great state of Alaska!

The Chugach 

Bridalveil Falls

Ice tunnel on Valdez Glacier - so cool!

Crevasse rescue practice on Valdez Glacier

Successful use of the 'Tractor Pull' technique

Mission briefing for the stretcher-based snow slope traverse

Pike 'n Pivot

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ingram Falls Sendfest

Yesterday, we managed to squeeze in a coveted ascent of the rarely formed Ingram Falls just prior to the start of our Waterfall Ice Workshop currently being conducted in Ouray.  Looming above the town of Telluride, Ingram Falls is in the same  general basin as its more famous neighbor, Bridalveil Falls. However, while Bridalveil faces nearly true north, Ingram has a W/NW aspect and sees a few hours of direct sunlight every afternoon.  The result is a rarely formed pillar that in most years never seems to quite touch down. This is not one of those years.  A pillar is what you came for and a pillar is what you'll find.

Ingram is in very FAT conditions at the present.  It is debatable as to whether the crux is the grade 5 pillar climbing or the 2+ hours of post-holing through San Juan depth hoar to reach the objective. Regardless, the climb is a prize tick and makes for a fine day in the mountains. Get some!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sapphire Bullets of Ice

Prior to Kevin and I taking on the CDOT rockfall mitigation rigging project, we were enjoying a typical winter in the San Juan's complete with a heavy dose of ice climbing.  One of the areas best climbs is the rarely formed Sapphire Bullets of Ice located on the main headwall to the west of Bridalveil Falls - another area classic in its own right!

Sapphire Bullets is definitely in my personal Top 5 of ice climbs in the San Juan's.  Every pitch is excellent. The climbing is engaging, but not desperate.  Super classic.  Not to be missed, if you get the chance.

We have our second Waterfall Ice Workshop offering for this winter coming up in 3 weeks time. Currently, there are two remaining spots.  If you want to hone your ice climbing skills and learn about both companion rescue and team-based rescue in the ice climbing environment, come pay us a visit for a week of quality education and training.

Berg heil.

Kevin leading the steep curtain on pitch 1

Nearing the top out - pumpy stemming

Looking down from the second belay station

Heading into the intimidating roof on pitch 3

Sapphire Bullets of Ice

Friday, January 31, 2014

Highway 550 open!!!

Today, Jan 31, Highway 550 was opened - albeit partially - for the first time since its closing on Jan 13 due to rockfall on the Ruby Walls.  I don't believe 18 days is the longest stretch of closure on 550, but it is the longest in quite some time.

All of us involved in the undertaking are understandably proud to have played a part in the success of the rockfall mitigation project. Almost all of us on the mountainside team are Western Slope residents and most of us live in Ouray or Silverton. We were speaking daily to our friends and neighbors and they were curious about the progress and encouraging us in our dogged pursuit of a solution.

We know we made a difference.  And we felt like we were the right people thrust into the right circumstances at the right time.  It is with a different set of eyes that I view that 'open' sign on the highway reader board. A tremendous accomplishment by the entire CDOT team. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ruby Walls - Last day of net laying

Ruby Walls - Red Mountain Pass- Final nets in place

Wow.  It is kind of a surreal feeling to be on the backside of the helicopter-based net laying.  What a push it was to get that completed during this favorable stretch of high pressure.  With 36 nets in place over the talus and considerable scaling completed at the top of the north gulley, the 'heavy lifting' of this project is in the rear view mirror.  There are still some important tasks remaining such as shackling the remainder of the net drapery, some spot scaling, and the installation of a cantilevered net fence at the highway level. But there won't be any more 'working for hours on end  underneath a rock-spitting 400 foot headwall' and that is a relief for all involved in this rockfall mitigation project.

We were scheduled for one more day of good weather and we took full advantage of the conditions.  We flew in the last four panels, did a bunch of scaling in the north gulley including the removal of a behemoth boulder that was teetering on the slope, shackled about 1/3 of the drapery, and scouted the remaining pockets of hanging talus on the north side of the recent disturbance.  It was a very full day as they all have been.  Collectively, we were dragging with low energy levels as we descended to the highway at the end of the day.

This unique project has been without a doubt one of the most scary, dangerous, and yet gratifying endeavors I have ever been involved with in my professional career as a ropework practitioner.  We had around 12 people on the mountain side every day representing four different CDOT contractors. Most of us met for the first time the initial morning we ascended the fixed ropes. There was a tremendous amount of professional respect, an amazing element of team work, and some serious blood, sweat, and tears poured into that slope.

So far we have a 100% safety record on the slope with some close calls due to overhead rockfall, but no injuries.  We are all very proud of the overall team effort and glad to have played an important contributing role in the success of the project.  Like everyone else, I hope the pass opens soon. I am ready to go skiing!

Cory managing a rope station

The last net inbound

Placing a net in the north gulley

The crew at the highway. Glad to be safely down. 

Ruby Walls on Jan. 29 with 36 nets in place

Searching for the keystone on the behemoth boulder

Shackling the final net