April 19, 2011

Phase Next

I started a new job yesterday!  After a few months of searching, I finally found an engineering company to take me in.  I'm working as a Senior Staff Engineer for Icicle Creek Engineers.  It's a small company (less than 10 employees) and is owned and run by a married couple.  My office is currently in the basement of their house in Carnation, WA, so it's a bit of a commute but seems manageable so far.  The work we do is centered around geology, geologic engineering, hydrogeology, and geotechnical engineering.  The projects I will be working on are much smaller than I'm used to and have nothing to do with mining!  Okay, some projects might be mining reclamation related, but that's cleaning up the mess rather than making it.  I'm still hoping to teach the occasional NOLS course, and my new employers seem like they'll be willing to work with on that when the time comes.

April 13, 2011

Lots of Little Stuffs

Nothing crazy or super fun to report, but I've decided that several slightly important things have happened that cumulatively warrant a blog post.

I sold Quatra, my 4-Runner, over a month ago.  I'm now trying to bike as much as possible and share Ava's car only when it's absolutely necessary.  It's going well so far.  Time will tell how long I can last without a vehicle, but it really doesn't make sense for us to have two cars when we seldom use one.

I went on another mission with Seattle Mountain Rescue to help two skiers down the mountain who were injured in an avalanche.  http://www.komonews.com/news/local/119359894.html?tab=video  This mission was more technical in nature than the previous one and, consequently, more fun.

A few days later, when avalanche conditions were lower, I went up to the same area with Dane as he passed through town on his way to Conway, WA.  At about the same elevation the skiers triggered the avalanche, we encountered increasingly unstable conditions.  We turned around here and got some decent powder turns in.

I went climbing with a bunch of friends at Vantage on Saturday.  I'll be teaching a weekend climbing course there for The Overlake School in about a month, so it was good for me to learn the area a bit since I'd never climbed there before.  A few weeks ago I taught my first course for Overlake, taking six students snow camping for a weekend up on Stevens Pass with one other instructor.  This was my first non-NOLS outdoor education experience, and although quite different, it was equally fun and fantastically short.

I'm still in the job market for an engineering job, but in the meantime I will be an employee at Recreational Equipment, Inc., selling gear to people out of the Alderwood Mall location.  I start training on Saturday.
 It's 15.5 miles each way, mostly on the Interurban Trail, so it's a pretty good ride considering it's through the city.  So, starting on Saturday, I'll technically have three employers: NOLS, The Overlake School, and REI.  We'll see how the juggling act goes.

April 05, 2011

Seattle Mountain Rescue

About a year ago I joined Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR), the King County search and rescue organization specializing in high angle and other technical rescues.  Until last weekend, I had been quite inactive in SMR.  This was largely due to the fact that I didn't live in Washington for most of that time as well as having some motivational challenges.

I spent last weekend (Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday) participating in SMR's rigging for rescue training.  It seems that most SMR training is focused on technical rigging systems for high angle rescue, yet most missions that we respond to are of a non-technical nature.  On Sunday, after training in the field from 0730 to 1700, we were notified of a mission nearby.  Someone had reportedly sustained a knee injury on top of Mt. Si, the trailhead for which was only about a mile away from where about 30 SMR members had just finished training.

We regrouped, shuttled over to the trailhead, and began heading up the trail in groups of 3-5 as soon as rescuers were ready.  A few minutes after getting the initial call, I found myself hiking up the Mt. Si tail in the second group of SMR responders on my first mission.  An hour and a half after that, we had hiked 4 miles and gained almost 4,000 vertical feet to our patient.  The first group arrived at the subject's location a few minutes earlier and was well on their way to getting the patient packaged in the litter we had carried up.

After the subject was packaged, the real work began.  We started by sledding the litter down the snowy/icy trail with a series of belays.  Once we got below the snow, we added a wheel to the litter and continued down the trail with four people attending to the litter and about as many tending to the tag line (break) attached to the uphill side of the litter.  As we descended, additional groups (some from SMR, and some from other King County search and rescue organizations) joined us.  Eventually we had upwards of 35 rescuers switching out regularly as we transported the subject back to the trailhead, which we eventually reached at 2315.

I was super impressed with the SMR response as well as the blistering pace at which most of them walk, especially considering the long day we had already put in!  I'm looking forward to joining more missions as the summer and "mission season" approaches.