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NPS Basic Technical Rescue Training Held

Little River Canyon National Preserve

National Park News

This year’s week-long basic technical rescue training course (East) came to a successful conclusion on April 22nd with the graduation of 31 students. The course, formerly known as EHART (Eastern high angle rescue training), was held in Fort Payne, Alabama.

Attendees this year included rangers and firefighters from eight parks, VIPs from three park SAR teams, a North Carolina Outward Bound instructor, special operator/medics from the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Group, a structural firefighter who assists with SAR at Great Smoky Mountains NP, and a forester from Georgia DNR.   

The course was led by 15 instructors from five parks, the Forest Service, New Jersey State Parks, Shenandoah Mountain Guides, and several others, including retired NPS ranger Rick Brown (author of Ranger Up and one of the course’s three founding fathers), SOLO instructor Marko Yurachek, and Lee Lang, a member Colorado’s Larimer County SAR Team, who is also an editor of Technical Rescue magazine and a board member of NASAR. Together, they provided a two-to-one student-to-instructor ratio, which in turn provided a heightened degree of overall operations safety. 

Course content covered all basic technical rescue principles and tasks included in the soon-to-be-released technical rescue technician Type 2 (TRT2) all risk position task books, beginning with knots and basic equipment and progressing throughout the week through anchor systems rigging, rappelling and ascending, night operations, and full-on litter raising and lowering operations. Final scenarios were held on Friday along a cliff line immediately adjacent to the thundering Little River Falls, whose rain-swollen waters plunged 48 vertical feet, creating a real-world communications barrier to rescue teams.

In addition to the regular curriculum, several guest speakers provided after hours presentations, including Bruce Smith and Allen Padgett, co-authors of the authoritative book, On Rope; Kurt Smith from Metolius, who gave a thorough and entertaining presentation on three decades of climbing; two representatives from Petzl; two Virginia climbers, Chad Heddleston and Jeremy Tooley, who showed their recently completed movie, Almost Alpine, which is in the running for awards at the Banff Film Festival; and Marko Yurachek, who gave a compelling, first-person, from-the-victim’s-perspective account of his own extremely difficult rescue from Virginia’s  George Washington National Forest after he fell 35 feet and sustained a fractured pelvis, six fractured vertebrae in his spine, a tension pneumothorax, a fractured arm, and fractured ribs. 

Strong thanks also goes out to Sterling Ropes, which donated several hundred dollars worth of rope to the course for the second straight year. After the close of the course on Friday afternoon, about a dozen instructors and students and two reps from Petzl remained behind to conduct drop testing of a dual mainline system developed by Bill Cardwell and Alan Williams of Shenandoah. Very positive results of the drop testing were observed and will be reported formally in the near future. 

Particular appreciation goes to instructors Clark Howell from New Jersey State Parks, Lee Lang, Rick Brown, Michael Damkot, and Marko Yurachek, who drove long distances in their own vehicles to teach; to USFS LEO and former NPS ranger Eddy Cartaya, who flew in from Oregon to teach; to ranger Rob Turan from Chickamauga-Chattanooga, who is also a founding father of the course and served as incident commander this year; and to three climbing guides from Shenandoah Mountain Guides – Chad Heddleston, Jeremy Tooley, and Andy Nichols. Each of these instructors is of the highest caliber and donates his own time, effort, and funds to teach the course. A hearty thank you also goes out to each of these folks’ agencies and/or employers back home for their continued support of this training. 

Special thanks also to Alabama’s Desoto State Park, which allowed course participants to spend the week in their campground and utilize all park facilities as needed, as well ranger Jimmy Dunn, who served as site coordinator, superintendent John Bundy of Little River Canyon National Preserve, and Pete Conroy, the director of The Little River Canyon Center, all of whom embraced the concept of the course coming to their park from the very beginning, and provided world-class training venues all week.  Finally, gratitude of the highest order is extended to Dean Ross, deputy branch chief of emergency services out of WASO, for his continued technical and fiscal support of the course. 

In 2012, the training will be in its 16th year and will be hosted by Delaware Water Gap NRA. 


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