Q&A with author Hal Clifford

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Mountain rescue: life and death on a rescue team

Q&A with author Hal Clifford

Do young rescuers get too enthusastic?
Are team members all volunteers?
How can I get involved?
A team member responds to the book
Aspen's only one of many excellent rescue teams
I want to climb--where can I learn how?
What are the qualifications for volunteering on a rescue team?
Did I really say that?
Is this book just for mountain rescue volunteers?
How dangerous is rescue work? How did you get involved in it?
How can I get rescue training?
What about the fatal Mt. Rainier rescue this summer?
Should people pay for their own rescues?

Do young rescuers get too enthusastic?
Our local mountain rescue group tends to discourage younger (<30) persons from joining. The reasoning behind this is that young, hyper-fit types will often try to solve rescue problems using a "give me a pack and a compass, I'll find him and carry him out under my arm" approach, which can result in obvious problems compared to a more reasoned approach typical of an older, more experienced team member. I would be interested in your comments on this, based on your experience.
Alexei Marko
Vancouver, B.C. Canada
[email protected]

Hal responds: Alexei, there's no question that age brings experience, and with it judgment and caution. I've seen instances where youth has been a real problem in rescue situations.

The Aspen team has an informal approach that tends to weed out the cowboys. To become a support member, wannabes have to attend three general meetings and be current in CPR and First Responder medical training, or higher. That eliminates some people right away. Once they're voted on the team in a support capacity, these people have to undergo mandatory trainings in avalanche, snow and ice, swiftwater, scree, and high-angle rescue, as well as take two courses at the local community college. Other trainings include everything from helicopters to horses. The process takes one to three years. During this time support members can participate in rescues, but they're never trusted out on their own. They go as part of a larger team. Through all of this they gain experience and can be evaluated by other team members. Field teams are managed by rescue leaders, as is the rescue as a whole. These tend to be very active members with five or more years of experience and still more training under their belts. Put it all together, and the young Turks don't have much of a chance of going off and being heroes (moreover, those who try tend to be eased off the team).

The one advantage of having the young and the fast is they can carry heavy loads.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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