Vertical Rescue


29/10 – 1/11/15

White Rocks, Snake Rock, artificial environment, Legoland

Four days on the rock. Instructing vertical rescue. Outdoor education teachers and uni students in training to be teachers.

Day 1 was an intro – go back to first principals and basic skills – to make sure we were all on the same page and doing the basics in best practice – climbing, belaying, setting up ropes, cliff edge safety, top belaying, locking off, releasable systems.

Day 2 things got more serious as we reshuffled the progression to fit in with the weather forecast – top belay off the harness to “know” what is not ideal, more complex anchoring, assisted abseil with an injured client, retrievable abseil, assisted hoist, z drag on the cliff.

Day 3 up and down from the balcony, prussicing, getting past a knot, more assisted abseils, escaping the system from top and bottom belay, more z drags and then with a compound pulley system, self belays.

It was all highly structured. Very complex processes had been broken down into component parts and the training was sequenced carefully so each simple part built on the previous one until the whole is completed and the objective achieved. The team was a dream. Motivated. Skilled. Focussed. On rock you have a big bag of tricks (skills and knowledge) that can be pulled out and combined to address each emergency situation. Emergencies are usually obvious but can sometimes require complex solutions. 80% of what we do is learning how to manage situations to prevent the necessity for a rescue.

IMG_0079Day 4 was assessment day – abseil guiding setup with a client who had a hair jam, hauling up an injured person, cutaway when all else is not possible, group exercise rescuing an unconscious person, up and down, anchors and more. In the midst of the most intense action a squall hit the exposed outcrop we were working on. Rain and sleet lashed exposed skin. Wind blew up out of nowhere. We continued on. “This is when recues often happen in the field. When you’re tired and cold, at the end of the day, when the weather is at its worst.” After a while it cleared. The sun almost came out. The temperature went back up. Everyone passed.

If only it was as straightforward for us to rescue each other when things get extra tough, when we slip and fall in life and we feel like shit. If only we could just set up a safety for ourselves, put in place a backup system in case it all turns to crap, use a set of basic skills, and then go to each other’s aid with confidence after our safety checks are all done.

As we tidied up the final admin at the coffee shop and reviewed the course one participant said, “Wow. That was intense but it felt authentic”.


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