Summary of 2013 Activities
Rocky Mountain Rescue recorded its second busiest year in its 67-year history, responding to 162 calls, with 98 field responses. By call number, 2012 was our busiest year on record, hinting that a sustained mission load of 160 may be the new normal, above the 15-year average of 135.
Planning efforts for 2013 started in late 2012, preparing for our MRA recertification test in May. We targeted and increased the training efforts to ensure we performed well for the test. With a lot of effort by the entire team, and under the watchful eyes of over 40 evaluators and observers from across Colorado and New Mexico, RMRG successfully passed the recertification and we continue to be a fully accredited MRA team.
RMRGs biggest mission of the year occurred over 6 days starting on September 11th when flash flooding ripped through the canyons and mountain towns of Boulder County. RMRG was stretched beyond where many of us thought was possible with RMR members deployed into flood zones by foot, 4WD and helicopter. We assessed access, rescued injured and stranded mountain residents, and searched for the missing. RMRG also participated in the Incident Management Team (IMT) which directed official flood response operations. Regional MRA teams also generously contributed to the mountain search and rescue flood operations. RMRG volunteered over 2,500 hours of time to the mission, assisted by MRA teams which provided over 1,000 hours of mutual aid assistance. The 2013 Fall MRA Meridian PDF, 2 MB, 16 pp. has more on flood operations.
RMRG also continued to see rescues where, due to the fear of being charged, those in need delay calls for help. In January, a party of three climbers became stuck on the 3rd Flatiron and attempted self-rescue; an action RMRG fully supports. However as the stuck climbers could not get themselves unstuck they delayed calling for help until dusk and as rain and snow started to fall. They feared they would receive a bill for their rescue. On the 4th of July, RMRG was called to rescue a man with a severe hip/leg injury sustained after falling hiking. The cause of the fall was an injured ankle that had occurred further up the trail. The man decided he did not want to pay for the rescue for an injured ankle, and so attempted to hop down the trail. This led to a more serious fall. The delay in calling for help resulted in rescuers entering the filed during the prime time for deteriorating mountain weather. RMRG does not charge for rescue!
An additional mission of interest in 2013 occurred in late January. For the second time in a few years RMRG was asked to track down a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) transmitting a distress signal. RMRG was notified by the Colorado Search and Rescue Board (CSRB) of a PLB activation in East Boulder in commercial area of town. The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) was receiving regular signals of a PLB activation and asked us to resolve the incident. Given the satellite reported PLB location, it was unlikely that anyone activated the PLB seeking emergency assistance. Regardless RMRG deployed teams and found the PLB using some non-standard direction finding techniques (there was no 121.5MHz signal) in an electronics recycling business. PLBs are a great tool for backcountry travelers and it has become apparent to RMRG that we will be using our skills in resolving genuine emergencies in addition to accidental activations.
RMRG also continued its contribution to safety education within the climbing community, providing a presentation at Neptune Mountaineering in March, Learning from the Mistakes of Others: Causes of Climbing Accidents in Boulder, Colorado (video) The presentation covers the causes of climbing accidents leading to rescues, followed by a discussion on measures climbers can take before and after a climbing accident occurs.