American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

United States, Mountaineering in the National Parks

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1949

Mountaineering in the National Parks. Interest of the National Park Service in mountain climbing in Park areas has steadily increased. The responsibility of Park personnel in encouraging safe climbing and in carrying out rescues is now more clearly recognized. Those in authority at National Park Service Headquarters, as well as various Park superintendents, have shown their interest in the work of the Guides Committee and the Safety Committee of the A.A.C. Most important, this year for the first time a mountain climbing and rescue training school was held for Park rangers from all National Parks. The course was well planned and carried out, though the allotted time was brief. The A.A.C. was represented at this meeting by Robert Craig, George MacGowan and Dee Molenaar. A report by Dee Molenaar follows:

“On 13 September 1948 the National Park Service inaugurated its first service-wide school in mountain climbing and rescue training. Region Four was given the honor of conducting the school on the terrain of Mt. Rainier, Washington. Owing to the fact that mountaineering problems are of mutual concern to many cooperating agencies, invitations to participate in the training program were extended to the U. S. Forest Service, the U. S. Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, the National Ski Patrol, the Seattle Mountaineers, and the American Alpine Club. With a list of 45 representatives present from the above-named organizations, coming from as far apart as Mt. McKinley, Alaska, and the Blue Ridge, the school got under way at Longmire, Washington, with an introductory talk by Park Superintendent John C. Preston.

“With the increase in recent years of mountaineering rescue activities, as a result of climbing accidents and aircraft disasters, the need was emphasized for an organized plan of mountain casualty evacuation. The purpose of the school was to give such instruction to men who could, in turn, impart and direct such information to others in their home organizations.

“The five-day program, arranged by Paradise District Ranger Gordon K. Patterson and assisted in the rock-climbing schedule by Ernie K. Field, Assistant Chief Ranger of Rocky Mountain National Park, included practical instruction on the rock and glacier terrain, with each phase introduced by a showing of Kodachrome slides and movies pertaining to the particular subject. In-the-field instruction was given in knot-tying and roped party management, proper use of rock and ice climbing equipment, belays, rappels, self and party arrests, crevasse rescue of all types, tying-in of stretcher cases, improvization of stretchers, belaying stretcher cases (in ascent, descent and traverse), construction of Tyrolean traverses with A-frames, and rope bridges. Emphasis was placed on standardizing instruction methods, so that each man could efficiently relay the information upon completion of the school. During periods of inclement weather, indoor instruction was given in the use of new types of mountaineering equipment. Open discussions were held, and the American Alpine Club Safety Report was read. The local problems of each area, along with ideas on prevention of accidents by public education, brought forth a well-rounded knowledge of other Parks’ particular difficulties. Wolf Bauer, of the Seattle Mountaineers, presented a discussion of the work accomplished by the Pacific Northwest Regional Mountain and Safety Council and offered suggestions for the organization of rescue teams. The evening programs were taken up by the showing of slides and movies of the many National Parks represented.

“It is hoped that the extreme enthusiasm and cooperation which were in evidence during the school may be indicative of the efficiency with which future mountaineering activities and rescue operations will be conducted.”

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