What now?

The WFR course is over. I've quit my job. I'm free now. So then comes the question... what now?

I spent tuesday just trying to get sorted. After hanging and chatting with Ryan I drove a bit down highway 80. I got a few groceries, did laundry, and mailed off the guitar I borrowed from my parents, yay more space in the truck! I found a sweet site right on a stream.


For dinner I had squash and broccoli stir-fry with the remainder of some chocolate milk I had for lunch


I also got a start on tanning one of the deer hides I've been hauling around. It was wet-salted so the first step is to wash the salt off. To do this I left it in the stream overnight.

My intention was to then buck it (soak it in lie), but the bucket I wanted to use isn't large enough, so instead I'm going to try the fermenting method. So instead of soaking it in lie I simply sealed it in the bucket, we'll see how well that work.

On wednesday, while exploring for a site farther off the road I found a OHV park off 80... Cool! I can't just let a place like that go unexplored, so I took a little 4-wheel trip.


Neat area, I was very glad my truck is lifted and has oversized tires. I chickened out before making it to the lake - checking a map later I realized I was probably less than a quarter mile from the lake... oops!
Exploring onwards I found a spot nestled down off an exit labelled "yuba gap". Lots of private land around it, but there's one little dirt road that's public. Driving down there I found a pretty okay spot. I say pretty okay only because the spot has been used by a lot of not-so-cleanly people. I spent the rest of the day napping :P.


Yesterday I went on a nice long hike. I saw an osprey pair and their nest. They had a chick that was flying but hadn't yet left... I stayed long enough to get some photos but they were pretty purturbed by my presence. I also saw a neat snake, not sure what it was.

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While I was out I found some soaproot. There was lots of it so I decided to try eating some. It has saponins in it that are extremely drying and act well... soapy. Those same saponins are also supposedly a neurotoxin, but it can be broken down by simply baking the root for a long time. Next time I'll do it in the outer shell, I didn't think of it at the time. Still the inside was quite good. I roasted it for maybe an hour inside my cast aluminum pot on a hot fire. The great thing is those saponins break down into sugars, so the end result is surprisingly sweet. It reminded me of clove candy actually

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Today I'm being lame and boring, I made a list yesterday of things I needed to do and I had a lot of town stuff - still trying to get this all figured out. I need a new sleepingpad (I popped the thermarest I've had since I was 12 by driving to high altitude with it inflated). I need to wash some gasoline out of a couple items (never carry gasoline inside a vehicle, lesson learned). I wanted to write this post, etc. My plans for this weekend fell through, so I've got a week until my next scheduled event. This'll be interesting :).


HAM radio for SAR

For those who don't know. Radios are how emergency workers keep in contact with one another. It's also how professionals and some amateurs keep in contact with one another in the back country. They are useful because they'll work in areas without cellphone towers, or of the cell network is down, and there's no dependency on the grid.

Here's a HAM radio:

A section of spectrum is called a "band". There are many different bands allocated for different uses. Some are for simple consumer electronics, some are for the military, some for GPS, some for airplanes, boats etc.

Along with all of the others there's one set of bands called the "HAM" bands set aside for amateurs. Unlike CB (you know, what truckers use), to use these bands you need a license, but they are pretty easy to get, and the class is the only cost. Also unlike CB, HAM radios can be run at high power and be used to talk to people on the other side of the world, if you know what you are doing (I'm not this knowledgable yet).

It's very difficult to talk a long distance using just a little handheld radio. So, HAM enthusiasts (called HAMs) will run "repeaters". You send the signal to the repeater on one channel, and listen on another. The repeater repeats anything it hears on the input channel on the output channel, but at much higher power (technically this is a "duplex" repeater). This lets you talk to people far away without having to send out that much power yourself or pull some other leet hack.

My radio and a hack

I have a VX6R (the radio pictured earlier) that I've had since I got my technician's radio license something like 7 years ago or so. It's a small multipurpose radio that can do a hell of a lot of things across a wide set of different HAM bands.

Well, it turns out that Search And Rescue teams mostly don't use HAM bands, they use commercial bands instead.  If you don't have one, this is a pretty cool one for that purpose:

My radio can listen on these bands, but it can't broadcast. But I want to be able to use my radio for SAR stuff. So what to do?

A quick search on the web, and it turns out all that's required is removing a single solder joint. A solder wick and iron later and my radio could broadcast on commercial frequencies. I just finished programming my radio this evening to to handle all of the channels I need for SAR.

Note - Do NOT do this hack if you don't have a specific legal reason to broadcast off band. Otherwise you're just setting yourself up to screw up and accidentally broadcast on a channel you aren't allowed to. IANAL but doing that can get you in trouble with the FCC... and yes, they really do bother to come after people.

Other uses

My particular use-case involves SAR, but radios can be pretty useful in lots of other situations. Mountaineering expeditions often carry a radio so they can call down to base-camp and give updates on progress or call for help. A lot of guides will carry a radio so they can call for help if needed, and sometimes will be the help as well. After Hurricane Katrina the communications network used both prior to and after FEMA's arrival was a HAM network set up by volunteers.

Just carrying a radio doesn't help, you have to know how to use it. If you consistently go to a particular area you can program in the useful channels in that area or just write them down. Some people also carry a repeater book listing all the local repeaters (note that you can find pdfs free). HAMs familiar with their radios may also be able to scan across a wide range of frequencies looking for anyone talking and then call for help on those channels.

A HAM radio, in my opinion, is anything but a necessity for going into the back-country. When I go out I rely on me, and generally don't assume I'll manage to get help. But that's my approach, and to each their own. And damn radios are pretty fun to play with and more useful the more organized of activities you take part in.

Crying over a dead CPR dummy

Author: mbrewer

This post is kindof long, but I need to get it off my chest. The emotions involved still baffle me, but hopefully others find this useful or at least intriguing.

I just completed a Wilderness First Responder course with Bobbie Foster. The class I mentioned earlier where in http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2013/05/helicopters.html where we had a medivac helicopter landing.

Yesterday was the last day of class. We'd already completed the testing the day before. As a group we'd been together for a 9 days, running scenerios and assessing each other. One kindof odd thing about medical trainings is that by the time you're done you know the resting respiration and heart rate of every person in the group, and maybe even how much it jumps when they eat. You end up with pretty tight bonds with these people after going through pretending to save lives with them over and over again, touching each other to do assessments, and asking them when they last urinated. I hope to stay in contact with all the folks I met there.

Anyway, the entire day yesterday was scenarios. We did a long term care scenario and were told it would last the entire day. We had a group of 19 with a team leader and a first aid leader. The patients were instructors for this one (Bobbie got a lot of helpers). The scenario was that we were on a morning hike to scout for good fishing holes to fish that evening, with the lodge as our base-camp on a multi-day backpacking trip. The lodge was (in the scenerio) 7 hours from the nearest phone.

So, we set out on our hike, and low and behold we came apon a terrible mudslide involving several people. There was someone lying on someone else. Someone stuck in the crotch of a tree near the ground. And a mother crying over a child (a CPR dummy). Before the leader allowed us to approach I volunteered as one of the first aid team leads, and as we walked through the scene (after the team lead had declared it safe enough) I was sent by the first aid lead up to the mother and her child.

I took a quick glance at the mother and saw that she was squatting. She had a little bleeding on her arm but not serious. From the combination I judged that she could walk, and by standard triage rules given sufficient resources, asked her to let me help the child and after a quick check for breathing and pulse began CPR.

I called for at least 2 others to help. At absolute minimum we needed a second for the CPR and someone to check the mother for serious bleeding.  3 came and I pointed at the mother and asked the first to arrive to assess her (thus also getting her out of my way). Then another helped hold C-spine for the mother and the other started helping me with CPR.

In between pumping on the chest I started checking the "child" for severe bleeding. I didn't find any. About now the two of us working on the child realized that we needed to start timing for documentation. Also the rule for wilderness is 30 minutes of CPR. So we checked the time and someone else who had stopped to see if we needed help wrote it down... 8:50.

The two of us rotated several times, occasionally checking the pulse again and glancing up at the instructor nearby hoping we'd get some sign that the child was alive. I pointed out that my partner had forgotten BSI, so did one round of CPR on my own while he got gloves on... 9:00.

We're starting to realize this isn't going to go well. We rotate several more times. Another person stops by and does chest compressions for a couple cycles to give us a rest (he doesn't have a CPR mask). We're watching the clock... 9:10. The instructor who's been watching us walks away (meaning there's no-one to tell us that the child is alive), and our hearts fall a bit.

After a couple rotations, when the person helping on chest compressions rotates out I ask him to check with the leaders if there's a medivac helicopter on the way yet. He doesn't come back for a while, but when he does the news is not good. 9:15.

A couple other's stop by to help, but they too lack CPR masks. So we keep going. Our backs are sore and my legs are shaking slightly... we know this isn't going to work... 9:20, 30 minutes... shit.

As someone walks by (the person who had swapped in with us for a bit), I ask them to get the first aid leader. Major first aid calls are their decision, so I want them to see this before we stop. The first aid leader arrives... 9:25

We talk in between breaths (I'm on the head at the time). I ask again if we've sent for medivac yet. She says no. I point out that at 7 hours to help it's 8 hours 'til anything could potentially arrive, this is way past what CPR can achieve. She wants us to go another 10 minutes... to make sure.

We decide if we're going to do this, we're going to do this right. The whole time we've been doing solid real CPR, the instructor actually mentions it later. I still feel fine. We keep it up for that last 10 minutes.

9:35... 45 minutes. I stop CPR and tell my partner to stop. I ask him to cover the body with an emergency blanket. I get up and realize I'm exhausted. I  walk down to talk to the mother.

The mother is very upset, I try to break it gently, but she pushes hard and I tell her that her daughter (Annie) is gone. I avoid the term dead for legal reasons. I can't declare someone dead, but gone is plenty clear. We did everything we could. A couple of other people who've been with the mother take her over to see the body. I go to try and help someone else.

And about 5 minutes later, I break down crying.

Annie was a CPR dummy. I was crying over a CPR dummy. I didn't understand it, I couldn't even tell what emotion I was feeling. 3 different people come over to give me hugs, which I have to say I greatly appreciated. They weren't trying to console me, or patronize me, they were simply communicating that they understood and that it was okay to cry. Eventually I stand up and go to help set up shelters, and end up helping move another patient.

In the debrief as they get to talking about Annie I try and explain what an important experience that was for me. And that if the emotions were that strong with a dummy, I'm really glad I did it with a dummy before a person. In the middle of trying to explain this I break down again.

I look around the room... several others in the room are crying too. I was kindof dumbfounded. At the time I hadn't realized anyone else was that upset. After the debrief I talked to the first aid-leader. She was crying, also about Annie. I talked to someone who had worked on a patient farther up the hill, the one stuck in the tree. She said she got tears in her eyes when she looked down the hill and saw us still doing CPR. Most people in the room had watery eyes at least. One person joked that they held it together until I started crying and then they lost it. I talked to the person who had played the mother. She said that she had been involved in that scenerio 3 times, and every time the person in my shoes broke down crying.

... over a CPR dummy.

The human mind is an absolutely amazing thing. Our ability to act, to play pretend, and to care (even when we don't want to) is kindof astounding.

Someday I hope I understand what emotion it was I was feeling yesterday, and what emotion is welling up now just trying to write about it. If it was a person I could probably (falsely) tag it with some other emotion like guilt. But I knew from the start it was a CPR dummy, and that it would probably not "live". I also know that I did everything anyone could do. This emotion was far simpler than something like guilt, more basic. Right now all I can identify it as is a need to cry.


Medivac helicopter landing

I've been taking a WFR course (Wilderness First Responder) up in Donner pass with Bobbie Foster. We're about halfway through now.

Yesterday was our day off. As part of the day off Bobbie had organized with CareFlight to do a wilderness landing and chat with us for a while. Super cool!


Another member of our WFR class had some training in landing in helicopters, so she took did the comms stuff, double-checked the coordinates and that sort of thing. I brought my radio as a backup, so I was able to listen in. The day was perfect and the air was nearly still so there wasn't much radio chatter, just an initial call and response, then the copter landed. IMG_20130522_083308.jpg

I actually learned a *lot* from talking with them. Normally they'd be landing in a place they hadn't been before, but this same pilot landed here last year for this class - which meant he already knew the location. If he didn't then the point person for the landing would've been telling the pilot where the landing zone was relative to his position on a clock face once she caught site of the 'copter. This would help him find us. Then that point person would stand on the edge of the field, but visible in front of the heli as it came in, and give the pilot any additional info he asked for, things like wind speed and direction at ground level. They might also tell the pilot about potential hazards like a power-line near-by or a tree that's in the way, just to ensure the pilot is aware of them.

For snow landings, they actually like to land almost on-top of the point person. As they land that person will turn around and crouch, they'll land literally like 2 feet behind that person. This way as the snow shoots up all around the helicopter the pilot has something to focus on to keep the hover in the right spot as he lands, otherwise it's hard to stay steady apparently.

The pilot said that they can land in basically any 100ft x 100ft patch (he had more exact numbers, but it's not that important, point being if it's close to that big, he'll make it work). There needs to be level'ish ground, but he said he'd also landed in boulder fields before. So basically, don't second guess the pilot, they'll figure it out. They are largely limited by visibility, though temperature can also impact the lift the heli can generate. They actually mentioned that if you tell them the approximate weight of the patient, and temperature at your location it can help them gauge fuel appropriately, especially if it's high elevation, a hot day, and a heavy patient.

Interestingly, apparently they do fly at night with night-vision goggles. The team that landed consisted of a pilot, a nurse and paramedic. Apparently the nurse and paramedic actually also wear the night-vision goggles to help the pilot with difficult manuvers at night.

I didn't get good photos of the inside of the helicopter, but basically there's the pilot's seat, the two seats for the medical staff, and the stretcher for the patient. They have basically all the equipment an ICU would have, pumps for drugs, heart monitors, AED, the whole shebang. They've got survival kits in case they have to stay with a patient.

About half their missions are inter-hospital transports and half are scenes. Occasionally though they do things that aren't medical at all like transport SAR dog teams. Being located near Donner pass (we were a 6 minute flight) they obviously do a lot of ski-resort pickups, though the mentioned that a huge portion of their calls are snowmobiles in the winter, and ATVs in the summer - often involving alcohol.

Apparently 'copters that long-line are in a separate class from medivac 'copters like this one. A long-line is when they have a long cable strung under the helicopter that they lower down to the ground to lift loads (like a patient in a stretcher). This technique is only used when you can't get the patient to a reasonable landing zone. This 'copter then doesn't do that, they land and take the patient on board if they take the patient.

It's hard to imagine how sweet this sight would look if you've got a midline femur fracture or a nearly bursting appendix and are freezing in the snow 3 days skiing to the nearest road: IMG_20130522_083249.jpg More photos https://secure.flickr.com/photos/smalladventures/with/8791524799/


Nerdery: Tools for nomadic route planning

author: mbrewer (written a few weeks ago) I've been trying to figure out, as I travel around, how I can keep track of where my friends are so I can make sure to swing by and say hi when I'm in the neighbourhood. It turns out that figuring out what to do and where to go is a massive information organization problem. I've got schedules of classes from different sources, bits of data people tell me. Some cool things to do are periodic or seasonal, some are one time only, and some are static and mostly stay in place. Given those constraints figuring out where to go and what to do has been a surprisingly daunting task. It's like trying to solve travelling salesmen where things come and go, and each point is weighted and you can drop points, and you only have partial state. I'd be really surprised if a generalized version of "where do I go" isn't non-determinstic exponential.

But, I'm a computer scientist as well as hippie abo trail trash. And I can't just throw up my hands at an information organization problem. Jess actually first suggested the idea of building an app to do this. Before embarking on that though I started scanning around to see what's out there and get an idea what I *would* build if I built something.

I don't have a perfect solution, but I have some partial solutions interesting enough that I thought I'd share. What's below sounds trivial, but actually tracking it down is several evenings of legwork. Before going on I should note my assumptions as far as resources I have available for these needs.

  • I have an android phone. I mostly use it off-line actually to save on phone bills, but for planning a road trip or what I'm up to next I figure coffee shops will work fine - or I can pay $2 and use the phone for the day (it's a tmobile prepay by the day plan, it's there a swear just hellishly hard to find).
  • I currently track my contact list via Google contacts. It's generally pretty convenient and "good enough".
  • Most people seem to put their address information on Facebook or at least their city, and very few put it in google+ or anything similar.
  • I have a laptop as well.

Finding Friends

A while ago I found a cool app for android called "contact map". It's a Google map mashup and will display all your friends in a map of the world. You can zoom in and out and cool stuff like that.

This certainly doesn't have all the features I want, but it's a great start to experiment with and try and understand my use-case. There's just one flaw. I don't want to type in all my friend's addresses by hand, and what if they move! Keeping an address book is hard work, and like a good computer scientist I'm lazy.

Recently I got a facebook account again (I gave in, it's too useful). And today I found this application: http://www.friendstogmail.com/

Using friends to Gmail I generated a CSV file and imported it into Google contact. This is perfect since I didn't have to give my google credentials to the app, and I'm not concerned about the security of my facebook account. This solution is not perfect since it doesn't sync on an ongoing basis, but it means I can at least just repeat the process every so often (auto-merging contacts each time) to keep up to date on where my friends live.

So, the idea is now when I'm planning a trip and realize I'll be traveling through Vermont or Missouri I have an easy way to check who I should try to drag out on a backpacking trip, or who to bug for crash space :P.

It's an imperfect solution though, because most people don't put their address online at all. Of my over a hundred current contacts on facebook and several hundred Google contacts, I have something like 75 actual addresses :(. So, sadly, for now I'll have to continue curating my address list manually. It's a start though!

Scheduling and event tracking

I'm also using several Google calendars. One is a calendar of what I intend to do, one is a calendar of especially interesting events that Jess and I share, and one is the public calendar you see at www.smalladventures.net/mbrewer.

In addition to THOSE, Jess and I ALSO share a document of cool opportunities, people to learn from, somewhat static classes we'd like to take, and vaguer ideas for neat things to do.


So, right now I have 3 sources of data I stare at to try and plan out what's going to happen. It's definitely ugly and offends my sensibilities as far as data organization goes, but you've got to start somewhere. I'm hoping as I come to understand the problem better I can refine this process a bit. Some randomness is fine, I'm not actually looking for the traveling salesmen solution alluded to earlier. I just want a good way to view all the data in a way that makes the good options obvious.


Newly on the road

I'm not feeling particularly technical right now, and I very much do feel like sharing this experience. So this will be a significantly less technical post than most of mine.

I'm currently sitting outside of a five guys on route 80 a bit south of Sacramento. I used to go to five-guys in college back in Pittsburgh, but it's been years since I've been to one, I didn't even know there were any out here. Seems fitting somehow, though I'm not sure why.

This morning after a shower I put the last of my belongings in the truck, emptied the trash, locked my apartment, and left the keys in my landlords mailbox. At work I gave a bottle of mead to some coworkers as a thank you and wrapped up a few tiny tasks. I ate lunch with a couple of coworkers where we chatted about random things like politics, war history, and told funny stories same as usual. After lunch and a quick "see you later", I went to a quick exit interview where we went over a bit of paperwork, and I was escorted out of the building.

So... here I am. My keyring has 2 keys on it - one for the truck and one for the truck's cap.

Emotionally today has been an interesting ride. Work was pretty relaxing, and surprisingly normal. As I walked out of the building though the whole thing definitely hit me. I'd just given up the two places I'd spent most of my time for the last couple of years. I drive to the mountains all the time, but driving out of Mountain View felt very different. I wasn't leaving home or anything, I don't really get attached to specific buildings and things in the same way many people do, but when I came back to mountin view I knew I'd be a visitor.

Thinking about it now I don't feel that way actually. When on the Appalachian trail previously I found that rather than no-where feeling like home everywhere did. I got attached to the forest itself, the rocks, the trees, the general feel of the place. I've lived in the bay area now, and the bay area will now be familiar only fading in familiarity as the place itself changes through time.

The weirdest part is the old "I forgot something" feeling. Occasionally I get a jolt "where's my work ID?" or similar. But I *can't* have forgotten anything because everything I have is in this car. I felt like this when I left for the airplane to fly to Georgia to hike the AT, but I'd completely forgotten how that felt until now.

I tried writing this post on my kindle, but it turns out my kindle can't load blogger for some reason. I can still use it, I'll just have to use the email gateway feature of blogger if I want to write posts that way. So, instead I'm currently writing this on my laptop which has a broken battery so it's running of the inverter powered by the truck. I definitely need to experiment more with options for blogging. I'm using vim and intend to post this sometime later.


Technical Ropes Rescue - Technician Level

Author: mbrewer

Last Thursday through Sunday I took a Technical Ropes Rescue course up in Hopland from Ron Roysum.

We went over some of the basic stuff too, but I'm going to start with the super shiny stuff :P.

The Cool Stuff

 photo DSC_01112_zps542b4570.jpg That's me, being the rescuer on an offset. This was the last setup we did, and one of the more complex ones. We were using a tree as a high directional (meaning something to have the rope come off above the ground). The total setup was >300 ft long, so we had ropes strung together and had to pass knots on the belay and mainlines. I was rigged to a pulley riding the offset line. I lifted the "patient" up to the pulley using a "set of 4's" that is, a set of 4 pullies resulting in a 4:1, and a prussick for progress capture. The offset line the pulley is on could also be lowered and raised by changing the tension at the bottom using another pulley system, allowing us to drop the rescuer down to the patient anywhere along the hill.

We got to play with all Ron's cool toys:  photo DSC_0149_zps95c9e1e4.jpg This is a "Vortex". Here it's set up as an easel tripod. You can see here that I'm working "edge" (or trying anyway). I'm helping the rescuer off of the side, watching the ropes as he goes down and adding edge protection where needed (to keep the ropes from getting damaged). That pulley system I'm messing (once I get it on the rope) lets the belay stay taught even before the rescuer gets down below the edge. Yet once he's below the edge it doesn't depend on the fancy tripod because I can lower it down to the ground. This way the belay acts as a proper redundant backup if the rest of the system goes once the rescuer is down over the edge.

We're using the tripod as a high directional to make crossing the edge easier on the rescuer. It's quite helpful when you've got 2 people or a litter you're trying to get over the edge. You can see the hobbling in the photo where we tied the feet together so they couldn't splay. You can also see where we pulled the back leg down hard into an anchor, holding the whole thing in place so it doesn't fall over the edge.

Below is the same Vortex system but rigged as an Sideways A frame and separate gin pole:  photo DSC_0159_zps61dabf67.jpg The side-ways A-frame gets used just like the tripod did, but needs a touch more guying. You can see the guy anchors coming out to the sides, carefully placed so they land about halfway between the legs thus pulling the frame hard down into the ground. In the image the rescuer is testing the system while edge helps him get everything set up. In this image it's easy to see the green rope leading out to the edge person. He has a Purcell prussic cord tied onto that rope, so he has some backup in case he falls off the edge by accident.

Then we had our Gin pole:  photo DSC_0156_zps2f47af89.jpg You can see here a bit of how it's rigged, and it's a fair bit of rigging. We were aiming for 3 guy lines but messed up the angles and had to do 4. Two of the guy-lines you can see are tripled, while 2 are not. The tripled guy lines are for tensioning, they are basically just 3:1 pulley systems, but with just beaners and no pulleys. The 3:1 is then then muled off like a radium release hitch. We placed these so they'd be the guys that get heavily loaded. The 3 lines will help reduce stretch. The single guy-lines run down to prussic cords at the anchor, this makes getting the length right a lot easier since we can pull the rope through the prussic. The rope is then muled off for security. Note that the entirety of the gin pole rigging is done with one (long) length of rope.

We were using the gin pole as a redirect just so it was easier for the person operating the mainline. They get to stand up this way. I should note that a lot of the rigging here is excessive. We were doing fancy rigging for super comfy work so we could practise doing it all. You might do this on a body recovery, but probably not on a normal rescue. Setting this all up takes a little while. On the other hand, you might *need* it for a complex rescue, and that's why we were doing it here.

And just because I had no idea how this would really work out in practise, I have to include at least one picture of a litter scoop. I'm playing the idiot who screwed up his rappel and apparently is sufficiently injured he needs a litter :P (rather than a pickoff like I did as rescuer on the offset line).  photo DSC_00692_zpse9a046a9.jpg Here the rescuer is attached to the anchor point of the litter via a set of 4s again. This pulley system lets him go up and down relative to the basket. This was especially important for my rescuer who had quite short legs and needed to drop down a bit to be able to hold the litter out from the wall as we were raised back up. You can also see a second set of 4s being used to change the angle of the litter, the litter was brought nearly vertical to get me in, then pulled up horizontal.

This brings up an interesting question, who do we raise the rescuer and patient back up?:  photo DSC_0148_zps187692c0.jpg In this photo we're raising a single person on a simple 3:1 system. When we had a 2 person load we generally did a bat-wing 9:1 system. A 9:1 batwing is really just 2 stacked 3:1 systems with a redirect in the middle (In the system I showed with the gin pole, the gin-pole was the redirect). The second 3:1 system needs a really long haul field (distance to the anchor), otherwise you collapse that system (use up all the rope so the pulleys hit) 3 times for every one time of the other system - this makes for lots of resetting the system, which is slow.

Here you can see a simple 3:1 system. The line running back toward us is the "tail", that is the end you'd tie to your load to. The line the man is holding is the end you haul on. The device tied to the tree in the photo is an "MPD" (multipurpose device) which is just a super-fancy pulley and progress-capture system (think ratchet, it's not but that's the idea). On haul it fills the same roll as a pulley and prussic. Note that the pulley closest the camera is attached to the tail or load line via a prussic hitch. When the system collapses and we run out of rope, we just stop. The progress capture holds the load, and we run that prussic back out down the line again.  photo DSC_0049_zps4af4ab8b.jpg

Other stuff

Some of the less sexy stuff we learned and practised were various ways to tie anchors. Lots of knots. Rappelling and swapping to an ascend and back. Swapping a lower system to a raise and back again. Placing rock pro. Angles and the forces those imply, which is something you always have to keep in mind. Safety margins and the like. Calls to make to cross-check things. We always had someone in charge of safety, and we all practised the common roles involved in a vertical rescue (IC, edge, rescuer, belay, mainline, haul team, and safety).

I keep saying the word "belay", I should probably explain what that means. A "belay" is a *backup*. So, usually in rescue you have your mainline. This mainline may go through a high directional, you might have crazy pulley systems on it, and all sorts of stuff. The belay line on the other hand is generally simple. The idea is to be fully redundant if we can be. It's often on a separate anchor, uses a separate line, and depending on the harness may even tie into a different loop on the harness. In rescue there are a lot of tradeoffs and massive redundancy isn't always the right choice. Expediency can really matter and all the redundancy costs. So you don't *always* have an entirely independent belay line. Sometimes a rescuer might simply rappel down on a single "fixed line" even, if the goal is to get a rescuer to the patient as fast as possible. We talked a lot about these tradeoffs.

Ron was awesome, as was Dwayne the other teacher. I ended up camping on Ron's land for 2 of the nights. We had beers and spaghetti at his house on Saturday. It was generally a ton of fun. Lots of joking about during breaks so it felt comfortable, but didn't interrupt the learning at all. We had folks down from the Yukon and up from Arizona. Incredibly knowledgeable people who were just a blast to hang out with. The first 2 nights I practised my boondocking skills and found a campsite myself up on a hill down a dirt road about 20 minutes from the original meeting location. It was absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures of it, but suffice to say that laying up there and reading a book in the evening I was very happy that I would be spending a lot more time outdoors in the near future.

This field is *enormous*. I learned a lot, but I'm still only scratching the surface of complex ropework. Having done some somewhat more complex stuff I'm now pretty confident I can do the simple stuff. But there is always tons more to learn.