American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mountain Rescue Council, Seattle, Washington

  • Club Activities
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1957

Mountain Rescue Council, Seattle, Washington. Bolstered by local climbers, many of whom are active members of A.A.C., as well as by hundreds of civic-minded citizens and business firms, MRC continued during 1956 its program of rescue, rescue training, and mountain safety education. In addition to the more basic functions of the organization, MRC has contributed generously of its members’ time to aid in the establishment of many other rescue groups in the Pacific Northwest. Operating independently (but as affiliated organizations) climbers in Everett, Bellingham, Central Washington, Hood River, and Longview now have active rescue teams of their own. Other groups are in process of forming in various communities in the region, including Canada. Mountain rescue has decidedly "grown up" in the Northwest, and as time goes on there will be few climbing areas where rescue assistance will not be available in a matter of hours. Constant striving toward better training methods and acquisition of specialized rescue equipment are two areas of activity in which MRC is strengthening its position. A trip by A.A.C. member Kurt Beam to Europe has provided liaison between the United States and rescue groups in the Alps. Kurt made direct connections with a supply source in Bavaria through which MRC is obtaining high-grade equipment at a fraction of the cost required to duplicate it here. (See Appendix to this report.)

A number of training sessions were held. A.A.C. member Bill Degenhardt, who passed away in December 1956, was vice-chairman of MRC and as chairman of the training committee was active in the training sessions. His efforts will be greatly missed in the future, and his past devotion and contributions will always be remembered. Sessions included a carabiner brake and pulley practice, a map and compass field course, a winter practice, and a two-day spring training conference. Some of the outlying MRC units also held several sessions. The spring training conference in June was staged at Snoqualmie Pass, in the Source Lake area. This was a full dress rehearsal, complete with helicopter participation by the Coast Guard. Observers and participants came from Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Canada. A week prior to the practice three dummies were spotted high on a ledge above Source Lake, which lies at the foot of a boxlike valley. Search teams scoured timber and rock and snowfields at the head of the valley and climbed as much as 1000 feet above the lake. Poor visability, owing to fog and clouds, revealed a need for better intragroup communications. When the dummies were discovered, MRC knockdown litters were carried in and the evacuation begun. The descent involved rather hazardous terrain, with steep snowfields and rock cliffs. The younger, less experienced members were given the actual job of evacuation, while the more experienced members observed and took notes for a detailed critique which was held later, back at the Pass. A new phase of support was brought into this operation by the Explorer Scouts, who set up an efficient "canteen" at Source Lake for serving hot coffee and sandwiches. Considering that mid-June in the Cascades is not characterized by bright sunshine and mild temperatures, the Explorers’ efforts were appreciated indeed. Max Eckenburg and other Explorer leaders are continuing their work to get the Scouts well grounded in support tactics for searches and rescue.

Dorrell Loof succeeded Pete Schoening as MRC chairman early in 1956. The board members included Bill Degenhardt, Ome Daiber (re-elected) Kenn Carpenter (Everett), Ira Spring, Arnie Campbell, and Dr. Otto Trott.

The MRC mountain safety educational film, announced last year, has been completed by Bob and Ira Spring and will be available soon for showings to youth groups, clubs, and schools. Ome and Matie Daiber play major roles in the film. Financing was provided by a fund-drive conducted over a several-year period.

MRC put in a very active and worth-while year answering emergency calls which took teams to the Olympics, Mount Rainier, and various other locations in the Cascades. A new type of mountain activity arose during the year: the search for and rescue of victims of military jet aircraft crashes. Two pairs of jet fighters crashed into rugged, tortuous terrain, and MRC, in conjunction with military and civil authorities, spent many days in the field on search missions. Of eight Air Force flyers involved, three survived. These unfortunate accidents underscore the need for greater cooperation between MRC and the military in order to cope as effectively as possible with future situations.

Ward C. Williams

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