Thursday, April 30, 2009

OMTRS: Rescue at Dripping Springs

By request, here is the write-up of the rescue mission on April 19th (also at the Hobsonian).

Liz: Aaron goes climbing in the morning, then saves the day again in the afternoon/evening! Stay tuned for a full mission update on "Rescuing Ron" when Aaron recovers from his post- climbing/rescuing/going-to-work-the-next-day-super-early stupor...

Full mission report huh? I'm not feeling terribly prolific right now but here's a brief: A solo hiker/scrambler named Ron was on a slabby rock wall and fell 30-40 ft and lended on a ledge. He was hurt pretty bad, but managed to call 911. By the time our team showed up, a pair of medics had already reached Ron. This fact led our team leader to believe that the mission would be a pretty quick extraction. We were able to get a visual of Ron using binoculars from the Dripping Springs parking area and we headed towards him straight away.

Once we got to the slab, we quickly realized that the extraction was going to be more difficult than our team leader had first thought. While Ron could be reached via easy scrambling, it was over a hundred feet of exposed slab, and not all of our team-members were comfortable doing the climb, especially carrying rescue equipment. We ended up setting a "hand-line" to help people reach the ledge. Ron would definitely need a medium-high angle rescue lower, which requires a beefy anchor. Unfortunately, anchors were scarce where he was. The anchor we had for the "hand-line" was a sketchy dead juniper which had already toppled. Eventually, we found a few anchors, one 100 ft higher than Ron (around the spot where he must have fallen from?) and the other in a good crack system about 100ft to the left. From this second anchor, it was about a 300 ft lower down the slab. Luckily, the team has 100m ropes. We didn't bring them on the hasty team, but called for one of the secondary teams to bring them up.

Using the two anchors, two 100m ropes and three other ropes, we were able to rig Ron up for lowering. I was in charge of the anchor installed in the crack system mainly because I had brought my climbing rack with me. If a regular climbing anchor is "bomb-proof" the anchor I built for Ron was "Nova-proof". A total of 8 people were attached to the ropes while lowering from my anchor and I'm proud to say that the wire-stoppers weren't even that welded in place!

Getting Ron off the slab was the biggest chore, and one our team specializes in. After that slab, there was another 100ft rappel before the litter-wheel could be attached. For the final carry-out, there were a dozen or so fresh volunteers from the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue team that added to our ranks and we got Ron out to the ambulance by 9:30. The original call-out was at 2:30.

I haven't received any updates about how Ron is doing. I hope he's been able to forget the whole experience, he was miserable for that 7 hour extraction. He had several broken bones, and a sever laceration on his head all the way down to the bone. Jostling him down a mountain did not do much to ease his pain.

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