Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 21, 2010

BTR, Day 2: anchors, lowers, raises

Kathryn and instructor Scott ("victim") prepare to be lowered over edge

(Continued from previous post)

I had the sweetest sleep of utter exhaustion after Day 1. Day 2 was ramped up, faster paced, and more material to master. It was a constant battle to keep my focus and refuse to allow myself to feel overwhelmed by the glut of information. I kept my game face on and got through.

First we learned several ways to secure an anchor system to various points above our cliff edge: juniper tree, bolts in rocks, etc. It’s not as easy as it sounds when you include fancy techniques like pre-tensioned tie-offs at the front or back end of your rope. All I could think of was that my engineering-minded daughter would find this a piece of cake, while I struggled mightily with the concepts.

We were given a scenario in which a visitor with a shoulder injury needed to be lowered over the cliff face to drive him to a medical facility. The Incident Commander then assigned tasks to each person: Belay Line, Main Line, Edge Attendant, Litter Attendant, Safety Officer, etc. Throughout the day we rotated through each position and became familiar with what needs to happen in each place.

The belay and main line managers have to rig anchor systems that will hold the proper amount of weight and be completely redundant, which means that if any part of the system were to fail, a back-up piece would kick in and prevent injury.

The edge attendants (2) must secure themselves to ropes and are the only ones allowed within ten feet of the edge, so they handle anything related to equipment and people going over.

The safety officer’s job is to examine and touch every single knot, carabiner, rigging system, personal tie-in, and anchor to check that they are properly done. That requires knowing how many inches of tail are supposed to be on each knot, what direction the carabiners ought to be pointing, and whether those load-releasing hitches are tied right.

The litter attendant (even when no litter exists, as this patient had only a shoulder injury) is responsible for accompanying the injured party over the edge and issuing commands controlling the rate of descent. Everything in the mission revolves around this pair.

The Incident Commander oversees every detail and is the communications hub. S/he must know how each station is doing at all times and how many minutes until all are ready for the mission to begin.

Lowering "victim" and attendant over edge; edge attendants managing the edge protection so rope won't fray

My problem is that things move so quickly that there is not enough repetition to secure items in my mind. Last night I went over to Ed’s to re-learn how to rig a pulley system that would provide 3:1 mechanical advantage. This is starting to come together… but today they add a full litter and an injured patient who needs to be properly secured to the litter, and the litter to the attendant and to the system. Oy.

Deep breath. I can do this.

Oh, one more thing: a huge cold front is moving through Utah today. This means winds of 20-35 mph ahead of it, with 45-mph gusts. We are on the top of an exposed sandy cliff trying to manage a rescue. We will need whistles today, and goggles. At least we’re missing the snow that Zion NP is going to get.

I gotta go study.

(Continued in next post)

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2 Comments »

  1. OY!!!

    Comment by leroque — April 21, 2010 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  2. Your weather system has been making the National Weather. It sounds like it was not much “fun” today, nor will be tomorrow. I hope all is going well in spite of Mother Nature. Maybe that is just one more thing to make it REAL.

    Comment by Mom — April 21, 2010 @ 9:46 pm | Reply


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