SAR Day 73: quick rescue in Squamish

I’ve been living in Squamish, BC, and since I’ve been here I asked my good friends at Squamish SAR to add me to their call out list. This summer it’s worked out quite well, as they tend to have interesting rescues most weekends, and in several cases I managed make myself useful.

On Saturday I received a page from their system regarding an injured climber at Octopus’ Garden in the Smoke Bluffs. Two years ago, this was the location of one of the very rare deaths in the climbing community when a climber fell on the route named “Root Canal“. The climber was not wearing a helmet, fell, flipped and hit his head which ultimately caused his death.

I resolved to attend the search as it is very close to where I live, the page indicated they were short of members, and it should be just a short stretcher carry. However, as I was lacing up my boots on my porch I spotted the distinctive Blackcomb Aviation red A*Star landing at the Valleycliffe Elementary School, followed closely by the BCAS Air Ambulance.

Me, acting as spotter

It turns out that an assessment of the subject at the scene indicated some neural deficits that activated an “auto launch” of the air ambulance. The SAR Team, taking the queue, also activated a quicker response and elected to use HETS, or helicopter long line, to extract the subject as quickly as possible.

I ended up acting as the spotter, or “Essential Crew Person” on this rescue.

Staging at the local elementary school, and with two helicopters we drew quite a crowd; over 60 people showed up taking pictures and filming as we rigged the helicopter, and slung the subject out. I can;t say much about his condition except that reports from the scene state he was not wearing his helmet, and took a long, pendulum, leader fall from near the top of a climb.

I don’t want to get all nanny here, but wearing a helmet just makes sense. Working around cliffs means that things can fall on you; rocks, and gear that other climbers drop. Also, falling climbers can knock you unconscious. Even a day at the crag can have tragic consequences without a helmet.

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