American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mountain Rescue Council, Seattle, Washington

  • Club Activities
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1956

Mountain Rescue Council, Seattle, Washington. Numerous American Alpine Club members were active as leaders and members in the Mountain Rescue Council, during the past year. This organization, born in Seattle, Washington, about 1947, has since become an effective and widespread instrument for rescue. Several thousand dollars worth of equipment, including a Rescue Truck (stored for us at Washington State Patrol Headquarters in Seattle) is kept at constant "ready” for use on rescues.

A number of rescues was accomplished in the Cascades during the last year; however, the fine work of the Coast Guard helicopters took much of the back-breaking work out of some of these operations. On at least three different occasions injured climbers who would have required large rescue parties working over difficult terrain were rescued in a matter of a few hours by a combination of good piloting and breaks in the weather. These rescues, nevertheless, required the cooperation and effort of many M.R.C. personnel, and were only possible because of numerous practice maneuvers and conferences between Coast Guard and M.R.C. people.

One such maneuver, held at Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains in Washington on June 11 and 12, 1955, was participated in by more than 100 persons. Some were from such far points as Colorado and British Columbia. Many A.A.C. members participated in this problem, including Ome Daiber, Pete Schoening, Dee Molenar, Willi Unsoeld, Otto Trott, Ward Irwin, Ralph Johnson, Kurt Beam, James Harrang, Arne Campbell, and Bill Degenhardt.

The June operation was nearly as complicated as a beachhead landing. It featured a simulated rescue from one of the high ridges overlooking Stevens Pass. The three "injured” persons, having spent Saturday night bivouacked on the ridge, were actually "found” the next morning by an MRC search party, working in cooperation with a Civilian Air Patrol airplane. Radio communications were established and a Coast Guard helicopter called in. The ’copter shuttled expert "rock” teams to a nearby ridge and these teams rapidly evacuated the injured persons over a series of cliffs, using both cable and rope systems. When the victims were at a low enough elevation for the ’copter to land, the big bird came in smoothly, on a snow-covered platform marked by fir boughs, and quickly picked up and carried to the highway the "litter” cases. Others who aided or observed this operation included the Navy, Army, Air Force, Forest Service, National Park Service, Sheriff, Civilian Air Patrol, Washington State Patrol, and Ski Patrol.

A second and smaller training operation was conducted at Mt. Erie in Washington on October 15, 1955. Emphasis at this maneuver was placed on training in mechanical advantages, knots, cable systems, and methods of crevasse rescue.

During the year Pete Schoening replaced Ome Daiber as Chairman of the M.R.C.

More recently Bob and Ira Spring were asked by the M.R.C. to produce a first rate Mountain Safety training film, to be used before such groups as the Boy Scouts and various school groups and others who are interested. The film has received substantial financial backing (from contributions) and is receiving wide interest in this area. It will probably include sections of (1) planning, (2) basic equipment, (3) fire and subsistence, (4) terrain hazards, (5) mental stability, (6) proper return. Bob and Ira hope to have the film ready for showing during the school year of 1956-57.

It is hoped that by this film and the numerous lectures and other written matter put out by the M.R.C., the accidents among climbers can be kept at a minimum.

Ralph W. Johnson

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