By Isiah REYES
Last week, members of the Montrose Search and Rescue team went to Lee Vining Canyon near Mammoth Mountain to practice ice climbing, which will serve well when they are called upon to rescue in an extreme environment.
The purpose of the training is to put the search and rescue members in the most technical and hazardous situations as possible that can still be safely controlled.
“Anyone who is comfortable climbing a frozen waterfall will be comfortable in any other winter environment rescue,” said Mike Leum, reserve deputy.
On Jan. 29 and Jan. 30, six members and two coordinators traveled to the frozen waterfall. Two of the members were first timers. When training, members wore Gore-Tex outerwear, which is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane that repels liquid water while allowing water vapor to pass through.
“Even though it’s ice and it’s frozen, it does tend to melt during the day so essentially it is somewhat of a water sport,” said Leum. The temperature during the climb was in the low 30s Fahrenheit.
For equipment, members used crampons on their rigid boots and specialized ice tools with their hands to be attached at four points when climbing. They also needed a helmet which helps protect against ice that breaks off and falls.
In regards to this particular climb, there was a hike that the members had to go through just to get to the frozen waterfall. The hike was about a mile long with 1,000 feet elevation. It was a fair amount of work to reach the frozen waterfalls, which are located at Lee Vining Canyon, north of Mammoth Mountain near Yosemite National park.
Leum said that thankfully this winter’s weather has been pretty sparse and there hasn’t been a need for many rescues.
“We could be called upon at any given moment,” Leum said. “We can get a call right now to go up to Mt. Baldy. We need these skills and specialized equipment to assist on a rescue.”
For more information on Montrose Search and Rescue, visit http://www.montrosesar.org/.