It's mid-March and the mountains surrounding Las Vegas are covered in snow! Many people have a hard time believing it, but winter conditions, which include snow-fall, is one of the major elements that the Mountain Rescue Unit works in. Because of this, the Unit heads to the mountains once a year to review avalanche conditions, rescue techniques, and Winter survival.
Here's a picture of what an avalanche chute looks like, including broken trees and other debris. This is clear evidence that many avalanches have occurred in the area:
The team reviewing information on avalanche conditions:
Digging out and looking at snow pack:
One example of how to build a shelter using Team equipment:
This is a picture of the team digging after a probable probe hit:
Setting up an anchor for extrication:
So far, the late Winter season has been very busy for the Mountain Rescue Team. With weather reaching the 70's during the day, more people are heading outside to enjoy the recreational areas that surround Las Vegas.
On Tuesday, February 22, a 32 year-old male hiker was hiking with a group on a trail in between Calico II and Sandstone Quarry at Red Rock Canyon. While on the hike, he decided to separate from the group to be "more adventerous". At the conclusion of the hike when the hiker failed to meet the rest of the group, Search and Rescue was dispatched at about 7:00pm to help locate the missing hiker.
The Air Unit, two Officers, and five Search and Rescue volunteers responded to the call. The hiker was located and a system was set up for retrieval purposes. A Rescuer was lowered about 50 feet to the hiker, who was uninjured. After connecting the hiker to the system, the team raised the hiker and Rescuer back to the top. The hiker was ultimately flown to Sandstone Quarry where LVMPD Resident Officers were waiting with the friends of the victim.
On Saturday, March 12th, reports of a climber who had fallen in Pine Creek Canyon came in. Two volunteers and two officer's responded via air to Dark Shadow, a climb located in the area. The climber sustained a back injury after falling just above pitch two. After locating the victim and providing medical care, the team extricated the victim and delivered him to an ambulance who transported him to the trauma center.
On Tuesday morning, March 15th, Mountain Rescue volunteers were called out at about 2:00am to assist with two climbers that had become stranded on the Brownstone Wall in Juniper Canyon. Upon arrival, Rescuers discovered that the weather was very bad with high winds. Around 3:00am, a small window opened where the helicopter was able to deliver equipment and 7 rescue personnel to the top of the climb. When winds picked up again, which grounded the helicopter, the team set up technical systems and lowered the stranded climbers nearly 1,000 feet. After reaching the bottom, both Rescuers and the uninjured climbers hiked out.
Getting in and out of a helicopter doesn't sound like something that's too difficult. You walk up to the helicopter, climb in, and off you go, right?
Well, the Mountain Rescue team will tell you otherwise. For this Unit, getting in and out of a helicopter is not only tricky, but it also requires practice.
Here's a picture of one of our helicopter's on its way to pick up two volunteers at a location in Red Rock:
LVMPDSAR conducts a night-time training session once a month so that the Team has the opportunity to practice in the dark. As you can see from the pictures above, turning the lights out on a rescue mission drastically changes things. Pilots use night-vision goggles to fly and Volunteers use headlamps to move about. Because of this, night-time sessions are a critical component of the training regime.
LVMPDSAR is one of the only Units in the world that will conduct rescue missions at night. Most Units wait until day break, but because of the level of training that is conducted and resources that are available, this Unit is ready to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.