Sunday, April 13, 2008

CMRU Mock Winter Practice

This weekend we had our winter mock mission at the Hoodoo Ski area on Heyrick Butte specifically. We went through 3 different mock scenarios with injured climbers up on Heyrick Butte which we had to set up lowering systems for and evacuate them back to the parking lot. After dinner, beers and some avalanche searching practice we resumed our training for a night scenario which Jason and I thankfully volunteered for as we were told by
Matt Crawford, who was teaching the scenario, to go about twice as high on the butte and have serious injuries between the two of us... meaning the rescue team would have to haul up two litters for us. I instantly felt bad for the rescue team. The resulting rescue took place from about 10:30 to past 2am where I called Matt on the radio and suggested we end it as people were getting tired. They had successfully and safely lowered Jason and I over 600 feet down the slope by tying two rescue lines together with a belay. I was comfortable and felt safe the entire way down strapped to my litter. That night I slept
up on the snowbanks in a little snow cave I had dug out for myself. It was nothing compared to Nate's mansion of a snow cave that took him over 2 hours to dig but it kept me sheltered from the wind so I felt it was sufficient to pass the winter shelter requirement of CMRU.

The next morning we all decided we were pretty tired so we decided to take off for the day (which allowed me to get a great bike ride in at MacDunn). I felt I got a lot of good hands on experience with our raising and lowering system and good knot practice which I had taught a class about for CMRU just a few weeks prior. The craziest thing of the whole weekend though had to be the giant pinwheels of snow that we kicked up on our descents down the very
steep, soft sticky snow under a hot sun on a 70 degree day... any snowball that started rolling would quickly accumulate snow and exponentially increase in size it seemed. The biggest was when we were lowering John Hoy down in a litter and the litter kicked up a grapefruit sized clump that began rolling. In about 80 feet it had grown to the size of a small SUV before coming to a stop next to the team below. We yelled down "snowball" and "lookout" because we didn't really know what to yell. It wasn't an avalanche but it definitely could injure if it ran over someone... we decided to call them giant pinwheels. Jason and Nate got behind the behemoth and pushed it another 30 feet to where it crashed into a giant tree breaking branches with its weight. Check out the photo and the 10 minute video of the lowering, including the giant snowball at the bottom of this post.  And as always click the title for a complete slideshow of the days events.

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