Olympic Mountain Rescue Pushes the MPD in Icy, Winter Conditions
A volunteer organization dedicated to saving lives through rescue and mountain safety education, Olympic Mountain Rescue (OMR) is one of nine mountain rescue association units that operate in the state of Washington. OMR members collectively have hundreds of years of mountaineering experience in the Olympics. All active members are qualified emergency workers under the authority of the Washington State Emergency Management Division.
Based at a volunteer fire hall in Bremerton, Washington, OMR specializes in search and rescue operations in rugged wilderness areas involving high-angle rock, snow and ice. We also provide technical expertise for search and rescue on rivers and in canyons, heavy timber and brush as well as for aircraft searches. Though most of our work takes place on the Olympic Peninsula, we often operate in conjunction with other Washington state rescue units in the Cascades, ranging from Mt. St. Helens to Mt. Baker. Every year we participate in a significant number of missions in Mount Rainier National Park.
For the past four years OMR has been the regional leader in the use and demonstration of CMC Rescue’s Multi-Purpose Device (MPD). The MPD acts as a descent control device and easily converts to a ratcheting pulley for raising a rescue load. Two MPDs can be effectively used together in a Two-Tensioned Rope System (TTRS), acting simultaneously as the main line and belay. This reduces risk from rope stretch and peak force in case one of the lines fails. OMR also uses and demonstrates CMC Rescue’s Enforcer Load Cell (with Bluetooth connectivity), which measures the real-time force on the system. The Enforcer has proven to be a valuable tool, primarily in training when constructing various systems and on missions for monitoring peak loads.
OMR has long recognized the advantages of the MPD when used in a TTRS. The MPD can go from a lowering to raising device without changing hardware, which keeps the system simple and diminishes the delay and confusion associated with a complex system. This is particularly important when lives are at risk. OMR operates in very rugged terrain, and the team has found the MPD presents no problems in terms of additional weight during transport, especially considering how much gear it replaces, including the brake bar rack, radium release hitch, and more.
OMR regularly conducts low-angle evacuations of subjects in a litter over difficult terrain. We have found that the MPD works very well as an efficient descent control device providing exceptional control of low- and high-angle loads, including maintenance of the desired speed. They have used the MPD in wet, cold and icy conditions with no loss of efficiency or control.
The MPD’s high-efficiency pulley, which features an integral rope-grab mechanism, allows the equipment to be used as a lowering device on the main line and belay line systems and then be quickly changed over to a raising system without switching out or replacing hardware. This combination of essential features in a single device simplifies on-scene rigging and expedites rescue. OMR now has four MPDs in use and regularly demonstrates the TTRS with MPDs throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Olympic Mountain Spring Training
(A personal account from Rick Lorenz of Olympic Mountain Rescue)
On Sunday, March 15, eight rescuers from Olympic Mountain Rescue (OMR) conducted a Spring rock training. The weather forecast: sunny and 60°F. However, when the team members arrived at the park entrance at 9 a.m. in five separate cars, we found out that vehicles without chains were prohibited from driving farther up the road. On top of that, we had 8 inches of new snow at the 4,000-foot level during the training session.
Three of our members that day had never used CMC Rescue’s Multi-Purpose Device (MPD), so this was a good opportunity to demonstrate the device. It would have been an even better demonstration if the weather had been more cooperative.
We learned that the MPD works well under cold, difficult conditions, even with accumulation of wet snow on the device (see photo). The team was able to hike in a mile with 1,000-foot elevation gain, set up the system and conduct two complete cycles of lowering and raising in the snow in about four hours. This included the time it took to train new members on the MPD as used in a Two-Tensioned Rope System (TTRS).
Working in the TTRS, including a 3:1 M/A raising system, we first lowered member John Kaster for a cold ride over the side in a litter. Then we switched the MPD to raise and completed the evolution with the proper safety checks.
Submitted by Rick Lorenz
Olympic Mountain Rescue, Washington