Everyone knows that becoming a park ranger involves mastering a wide range of skills. Some of the most important of these skills are those related to search and rescue operations, since the National Park Service conducts more than 3,000 rescue missions each year.
While many rescues take place on the ground, park rangers are increasingly being called to respond to cliff-side rescues of rock-climbers that have gotten themselves into a bad position on the face of a cliff. These kinds of rescues are often technically challenging, as they involve rappelling off the cliff and hoisting distressed climbers to safety using ropes. Though rock climbing has become a much more popular sport in recent years, cliff rescues also often involve coming to the rescue of injured hikers stranded in mountainous areas.
Even among search and rescue personnel this level of technical rappelling and climbing skill is not common. To help develop the expertise necessary for search and rescue professionals to perform these types of rescues, the National Park Service provides semi-annual intensive rope rescue training sessions for its park rangers, volunteer rescue groups, and members of the US military.
One of its most recent training sessions took place at Acadia National Park in Maine in April 2015 and drew participants from throughout the East Coast. This was the first time that one of these weeklong classes was held at this park. Park rangers in Acadia are no strangers to cliff rescues, reporting that during peak season they may have as many as three such operations being conducted simultaneously.
Experts in rope rescue were on hand to train the participants on:
- Rappelling techniques
- Carrying out non-litter rescues
- Safely loading and hoisting litters
These trainees first developed some basic rappelling skills at the Southwest Harbor Fire Department before using their skills on actual cliffs.
Their final mission was to safely guide a coil of fire hose dressed in a jacket and boots to simulate an injured hiker. The participants used ropes to carefully hoist the dummy up a cliff-side to safety.
Given the popularity of hiking in remote regions, this training is likely to pay off for the participants, who ranged from experienced park rangers to novices in search and rescue.