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Mountain Search and Rescue Techniques

Mountain Search and Rescue Techniques, by W. G. May, illustrated by Linda Boley, with foreword by Tom Hornbein. Boulder, Colorado: Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Inc., 1973. 324 pages.

This is surely the most complete and authoritative book on mountain rescue ever written (in the English language, at any rate). The author has had many years of experience in the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, one of the oldest volunteer rescue organizations in this country. He has served as its Group Leader and as a member of its Board of Directors. He knows what he is talking about, and has drawn on collective experience in writing this book.

The book was written as a training manual for mountain rescuers. It has 35 chapters and is profusely and clearly illustrated. There are sections on equipment, ropes, knots, anchors in snow and rock, lightning, avalanches, crevasses and crevasse rescue—all topics on which any mountaineer should be informed. Other, more technical sections deal with search methods, use of aircraft, radio communication, evacuations on rock and snow and ice, and legal aspects of rescue work. A chapter that may be unique is on steel cable techniques. The Rocky Mountain Rescue Group has special expertise in this area. They received a grant-in-aid from the American Alpine Club to support research in cable equipment. But the author makes it clear that more development is needed and that present techniques are by no means foolproof.

The book should be read by all serious mountaineers, whether or not they expect to become volunteer rescuers. After all, every mountaineer encounters emergencies at one time or another, and, as Tom Hornbein points out in his characteristically light-hearted preface, “Mountain rescue is essentially mountaineering.”

Harold F. Walton