- Ice and snow anchor use and placement. Flukes, pickets, and snow bollards.
- Rock pro anchor use and placement (climber speak for “protection”). This is for 20 kilonewton (2.4 ton) rescue loads, typically consisting of at least two sets of three independent banks of protection. You should be able to hang a Honda Civic off our rescue rigs.
- Running top speed and jumping down Bluejay, landing on our back traveling head first, sliding to our doom. No worries, just use that ice axe and self arrest without piercing your femoral artery.
- Helicopter insertion and patient hauling, courtesy of the awesome H40 crew at CHP’s Central Division. Popping smoke grenades, grabbing the hooks without getting zapped, rotor wash everywhere, and giving your patient a fastpass ride: it’s hard to not get stoked when you see that work out smoothly.
- Tracking training (which is nearly an art form), complete with sage-on-the-hill trackers who will track people in the woods just for fun and to see if they can. One guy on our team has a sandbox of sorts at his front door and asks everyone to leave an impression so he can keep seeing different tracks.
- Blood borne pathogens and what they mean to a first responder. Want to catch some hep c? What about working on patient A, then going over to patient B without changing out your gloves, spreading whatever goo patient A has on patient B?
- Radio training, to include all repeaters and frequencies used by air crews, law enforcement, and municipalities throughout the county.
- Mountain navigation, chasing down small markers scribbled on small pieces of wood across a forest and scree field. As a Navy trained sailor with a USCG captain’s license, I had to work hard for this practical and written test.
Nevermind the examinations, gear signoffs, medical provider qualifications, immunizations, pack signoff, and take home tests.
And we’re not even close to halfway done with training at this point. Really it’s just enough to turn our 2017 cohort into a field effective team for the summer.
Then there are the self-study sessions groups of students will do for practicing various skills, typically high angle rope work and patient care.
July marks the typical beginning of rescue season. Right now the Lakes Basin is pretty inaccessible because of snow, PCT thru-hikers are skipping the High Sierra (my backyard), and major campgrounds are scheduled to only be open for two months this year.
So even though the backcountry is pretty treacherous right now, road closures and applaudable risk analysis have kept most folks from getting into trouble. That said, the sheriff could be getting ready to hit the call-out button right now.
*As a rule, I will not and cannot discuss any particulars of search and rescue operations that approach the realms of patient privacy and law enforcement.