Howdy Everyone! Here are some pics from another one if my Search and Rescue training days. We climbed to the top of Castle Rock to do a “Multi pitch lower”. This is where you lower a victim down from the top of a mountain, cliff, etc using a series of rope systems.
A mountain, or cliff might be very large in which case you may need several rope systems to get a litter to the bottom. It might also need multiple rope systems if the pitch or fall line of the slope changes or if you needed to go around a corner or down at a different angle. In this exercise we had a live patient who was pretending to be an injured person who had fallen from the top of Castle Rock.
The rescue team was broken up into multiple groups that would each setup a rope system for their pitch of the lower. We had a total of 4 rope systems to get the victim to the bottom safely. Each system was comprised of anchors for the ropes, anchors for the team members, main lines, and belay lines. With these systems we could ensure that there were always two ropes attached to the victim, and it met our safety factor requirements for the load we were supporting.
This pic was taken during our Search and Rescue training day on Castle Rock. We were practicing a 4 pitch lower of a victim from the top down to the base. Each pitch uses a double rope setup with a main line and belay line. When the litter would reach the next station (pitch) we would transfer the litter to the next system’s ropes. This allows you to do long lowers where the angles or fall lines change. Here is Suz rappelling down to the snow ledge on Castle Rock.
Looking over the edge of Castle Rock on Ross Island in Antarctica. The top has lots of loose rocks, so you had to be careful not to dislodge them onto the teammates below.
A picture of me on top of Castle Rock during a Search and Rescue training day.
Just chillin Antarctica style! You would never guess where I was in this picture.
I now know what it is like to be inside a huge crevasse in Antarctica. Obviously I am alive… as this was actually a training exercise for the Search & Rescue team today. Had it not been a practice fall while I was roped up, I would certainly not be here to talk about it now.
The purpose of today’s exercise was to train for someone falling into a crevasse while traveling along a glacier. We had four people roped up and one would fall into the crevasse while the others were usually flung to the ground by the force of the rope. The team on the surface would have to arrest the falling person by then digging their ice axes into the snow and laying on them. Some people were flying through the air like rag dolls when the rope pulled. It was sort of funny from the surface. Once the fall was stopped, the rope was anchored into some snow anchors so the person in the crevasse could practice ascending the rope using prusiks. We also built pulley systems on the surface to raise the person. All I can say is that it was extremely scary to fall into a black hole without being able to see where you are falling. Once inside it wasn’t too bad… it was very scary and eerie, but also totally awesome at the same time. All you could think about while dangling was how horrible it would be to keep falling as you are wedged tighter and tighter in the cold death squeeze of the crevasse. You also couldn’t help but notice how completely silent and alone it was. It as also mesmerizing to look around and the bluish color of the snow gradually fading into black below.
Another picture taken looking up from deep within the crevasse. It was a bit unnerving not being able to see the bottom and wondering how deep it really went. It was very, very deep. We don’t know exactly how deep it really is as it just keeps getting narrower and narrower as it disappears into the darkness below. It was cold inside and you felt very alone. Even if you scream, the people at the top can’t hear you at all. We communicated via radios with the people on the surface.
Looking into the cold depths of the crevasse. Snow that had blown or fallen into the crevasse was clinging to the side walls.
Another picture looking up towards the hole we each fell into. It was both scary and amazing to see a crevasse while dangling from the end of a rope deep inside.
Looking up the rope to the top of the crevasse. A hole was dug in the snow bridge on the surface so we could fall into the crevasse. We were roped to our teammates and they went flying backwards through the air as we fell down the hole… they then had to arrest our fall by laying on the ground and digging their ice axes into the snow.
Looking along the length of the crevasse. I was amazed at how smooth the walls were. It had a slight curve as it went down, and down, and down… Totally scary but also very cool.
Looking down into the depths of the crevasse. This pic was taken quite a ways down below the surface, and it just kept getting deeper and deeper. It was pretty scary to think about what happens to people who fall into these.
A snow bridge covers the top of the crevasse. This prevents you from seeing the crevasse from the surface. Some snow bridges are safe to cross, and others, not. You never really know, which is why ground penetrating radar is used to determine if they are safe. Ice crystals form on the underside of the snow bridge. They are fragile and very beautiful.