Fresh off the helicopter at the scene of a fall accident/body recovery in the Superstition Mountains. The flight suit is a Flight Suits Limited 27P style Nomex with unit patches and reflective trim on the leg and sleeve cuffs. The North Face Climb Very Light Gore-Tex Jacket matches the flight suit so regardless of the mission we looked the same to all the agencies we worked with. It was a marketing project where we establish and then develop a brand. It worked well although it was not universally embraced by all Team members. A Mountain Rescue Team by its very nature is a collection of square diamonds.
In the old days the Mountain Rescue Team uniforms consisted of T-shirts in various states of repair and blue jeans. A new breed of member brought more conformity and adherence to a structured, integrated command system where the Team is the technical and wilderness rescue piece of a larger organizational chart managed by public safety agencies. We were always top notch technically but we looked pretty rag tag so there was a concerted effort by some of us young guns to look the part too. Everything was blaze orange because it is internationally synonymous with rescue and it is what could be seen easily from the air. I saw a picture of the Canadian SAR Techs in their orange flight suits, it looked sharp and made a lot of sense to me. That is what we shot for.
Prepping the litter to be long lined/short hauled out after a long night. Teammate Glenn Speight is wearing a metalic blue carbon fiber helmet and a Gore-Tex Kichatna Jacket from The North Face, our official Team shell jacket which was heavier and tougher than the Climb Very Light Jacket. I am wearing a Joe Brown helmet with dual custom headlamps from Petzl and Niterider. This is just before we switched to a helmet color scheme consistent with the local fire departments where you could immediately tell the rank of a Team member. Yellow for basic firefighters, Red for Captains and white for Chiefs.
With my jacket stowed in my pack you can see my Conterra Tool Chest radio harness. It contained critical equipment that I used all the time like a Sharpie, GPS unit, compass, smoke, flagging, strobe light, 56 inch long range antennae and earplugs. The most important item it housed though was my Motorola HT1000 VHF radio which connected to A Radiomate noise canceling lip mic and custom molded earpiece. It was an expensive, about $2500 for everything, but outstanding system. I could literally stand next to a hovering helicopter and communicate effectively with the crew or Teammates around me. In this particular set up I am also carrying a Smith & Wesson 342 TI Centennial revolver in .38 Special. The first two rounds were loaded with CCI snake shot and the other three were 110 gr Hydra-Shok JHP.
Carrying a sidearm in wilderness EMS and SAR work was always something of a double edge sword. On the one hand we were out in the middle of nowhere all the time and the danger of everything from bad guys and crazies to Mountain Lions and Black Bear was ever present. My opinion is that if you are out there you should be armed but carrying in a manner that is concealed and protected. Hard to maintain officer safety when you are close in and hands on a patient. I still like the Safepacker from The Wilderness for carrying a pistol on a backpack waistbelt or climbing harness which is exactly what Ralph Holzhaus designed it to do. Your weapon is secured, covert and protected but still accessible. Nobody but your partner knows what it is.
After a long, cold, wet night we finally decided to fly the body out and hike back to the command post. No Bauman Bag on this one, just the stokes basket and the old tried and true, Team made rope spider rig. Note the tag line hanging from the foot of the litter.
If I remember correctly, we got our asses kicked on this mission. There were only eight of us and the terrain was typical Superstitions nasty. Tight, extremely rugged and steep enough to require a running belay for most of the night. Problem is that even if you are lucky enough to be on or near a trail it is almost never wide enough for you, the litter and your opposite on the other side so somebody is always getting run off the trail or onto the rocks and or cactus. Think it is no big deal for six (that is all there is room for) strapping men to carry one adult out? You are right if you are going from a house to an ambo on level ground but try it on the side of a mountain for eight hours. It beats the worst, most dastardly wrestling work out Coach McMinn ever dreamed of dishing out.
Problem now is, most SAR groups, especially non-Mountain Rescue certified Teams, are getting used to the relative luxury of dependable air support so they are not regularly practicing the fundamentals and preparing for when the bird isn’t available. Remember Murphys law folks. The worst possible thing will happen at the worst possible time.
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