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.