Regional Safety Efforts

Publication Year: 1952.


The Pacific Northwest Mountain Rescue and Safety Council was conspicuously active in rescue work in 1951. The Council also has directed its efforts toward development of specialized search and rescue equipment. An item of particular interest in this equipment is an aircraft adapter kit which makes possible the use of portable radio equipment of the Park Service, Forest Service or State Patrol, each of which operates at a slightly different frequency. It also facilitates the adaptation of this equipment to air-ground communications. Another piece of equipment contributing to greater efficiency in rescue operations is the Council’s new "Stokeski" stretcher. This is a refinement of the standard stokes basket stretcher to which a number of features have been added. The "Stokeski" weighs about 40 pounds and is collapsible so that it may be placed on two packs and carried comfortably, allowing the carriers to walk independently. The stretcher has a wheel for operation on rocks or trail and a ski for hauling on snow. It can be handled by two or three men instead of the four to six bearers usually required by other stretchers. The running equipment may be removed when the stretcher is lowered over a cliff. (For details see "The Mountaineer", December, 1951, published by the Mountaineers, Inc., Seattle, Washington.)

The Rocky Mountain Rescue Group was organized within the last few years to function in Colorado along the lines of Washington State’s Mountain Rescue and Safety Council. This group presently has two units, one at Boulder and the other in Leadville. A call system has been instituted by the Boulder group and is effected through the University of Colorado switchboard. In this system, climbers will register for trips by calling the University switchboard and will report their return in the same way. The Rescue Group will be notified when a registered party has not returned by the estimated hour. Such a system requires a high degree of cooperation to be truly effective; however, it provides registered parties with an excellent safeguard when they are bound for regions in which no local authorities may be found with whom to register destination and estimated time of return. The plan might well be adopted by other Universities with active climbing or outing groups, and perhaps is worth consideration in the National Parks. Training activities of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group have included after-dark rock evacuation and first aid work under mid-winter conditions.

The rock climbers group of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s New York Chapter has organized a special safety committee for the Shawangunks climbing area. A recent note from Norton Smithe of that committee is of interest. He writes: "We in the New York Chapter of the A.M.C. are particularly proud of our safety program. We stress the subject at every meeting of our rock climbers and enforce it rigorously on the cliffs. Sometimes we arrange a short talk or discussion after a day of climbing. Recently we

have issued a number of mimeographed papers on safety

No one is allowed to lead until he has proven himself qualified not just to climb a route, but to lead others up. It may be worth noting that we lay much more stress on judgement than on spectacular climbing, when selecting leaders and have adopted a rather rigid qualification procedure. We also try to emphasize the leaders responsibility to beginners."

These climbers have also been working on a list of pertinent reminders which they hope to expand into a rock climbers’ Safety Code. A draft of these principles has been distributed to a number of the other eastern rock climbing groups especially those involving young climbers from the Universities. It is hoped that this Code, although adapted especially to the more difficult local cliff climbs, will help to stimulate thought along similar lines in training groups of other clubs. In addition, this group has been devoting a great deal of its time and effort to specialized training in belay techniques on all of its local rock climbs.

The Sierra Club reports that some of its members have a problem under way to test the adequacy of several types of belay positions, as well as to test strains on pitons and rappel loads. A report is expected in the near future.