On the Memorial

Entries in Cave Rescue Team (7)


2015 MRA Re-Accreditation

To be a fully accredited member of the Mountain Rescue Association a search and rescue team must pass a test in each of three disciplines: Technical rope rescue, snow and ice rescue, and wilderness search and tracking management that includes an ELT search. To maintain accreditation, each team must pass a re-accreditation test every five years. The California Region of the MRA has chosen to follow a re-accreditation cycle of every three years, so each year California teams test in one of the three disciplines. This year was technical rope rescue, and it was hosted by Sierra Madre Search and Rescue in Joshua Tree National Park. Next year it will be snow and ice, and Inyo County SAR is hosting.

In San Bernardino County there are two fully-accredited SAR teams: West Valley SAR and the Cave Rescue Team. There are two associate member teams who are progressing toward full accreditation. Wrightwood SAR has completed the search and tracking accreditation, and San Bernardino Mountain is preparing for their technical rope rescue accreditation.

My team improved dramatically during our quest toward full MRA accreditation. We firmed up our leadership, honed a few new skills, and became a more effective resource for our region. I highly recommend accepting the challenge. It will be difficult, and time consuming, but you will be better for it. Broadening your SAR involvement with teams throughout the state and country is an inspiring endeavor. You learn that many teams struggle with the same issues, and may have helpful solutions. It is an extrememly helpful network. Also, if you think you are too small, keep in mind that we did it with a roster smaller than 15.


Toroweap Cleanup

Members of the Cave & Technical Rescue TeamThere are some silly traditions in the world. Apparently one of them is to roll tires off the rim of the Grand Canyon, hoping to make it to the Colorado River 3300′ below. Often times they were lit on fire and then tossed. Over the past 5 years, the Toroweap park ranger had noticed a dozen tires plus a variety of other debris at the base of Toroweap Overlook. The Toroweap Overlook sits on top of the Esplanade sandstone layer with four distinct limestone or sandstone layers above. Below are eight layers before getting to the river. Not far downstream of the overlook is Lava Falls.

Click to read more ...


Rescue in Thunder Canyon Cave



On Sunday, May 2, I was finishing dinner when my teammate, Tad Gallistel, called me to tell of a phone call that he had just received about a stuck caver in Thunder Canyon Cave. A member of the party was stuck in the squeeze at the end, and after several unsuccessful attempts to get him out, decided that further assistance was required. The reporting party called the San Diego Sheriff then called Tad to explain the situation. I quickly called our coordinator, Dan Whitten,  and the VFU on-call person, Marion Browne, to explain the situation and to tell them to expect a call from CalEMA. In the meantime, a message was sent to the team advising them of the situation, but to hold until we get confirmation through the proper channels. Amazing for a bureaucracy, the call came about 15 minutes later, and we were able to roll the team.

Click to read more ...


West Valley SAR and Cave & Tech Rescue Team Complete MRA Re-Accreditation

 The Cave & Technical Rescue Team and West Valley SAR spent the day Saturday re-accrediting with the Mountain Rescue Association. Each year, accredited teams in the California Region, must complete re-accreditation in one of three disciplines: Search & Tracking, Technical Rope, and Winter/Alpine. This year all teams completed the Search & Tracking exercise.

There are 19 fully-accredited MRA teams in California, so scheduling the tests is an exercise in organization. West Valley SAR and the Cave Team were on the same track. We began the day with an ELT search followed by a patient care scenario at the "crash site". The Cave Team's ELT plot from the day is shown below. For each team there were two evaluators. One evaluator accompanied the team in the field and the other evaluator assessed the command post crew.

View MRA ELT Plot in a larger map

The rest of the morning was spent on a grid search, where teams were scored on their technique and the number of items found.

After a quick lunch our search and tracking exercise began. We were given a bit of information on our missing hiker that included the last known point (LKP). Once we received this information we had to spool up the CP and deploy teams.

View Cave Search Map in a larger map

The Cave Team deployed a team to the LKP to cut for sign and a "hasty team" to quickly search high-probability trails. After these teams entered the field we were provided a shoeprint from our missing subject on a sheet of aluminum foil. This did not photograph well, so we sketched it and made it part of the paperwork for subsequent teams. We were able to email the sketch to field teams about the same time that they came across a possible print. The field team was able to snap a photo with a cell phone, and the CP was able to confirm that the track was, indeed, the missing person's. The direction of travel was established, and further resources were deployed. After nearly 2 hours from our briefing, we located our subject.

Under an awning to avoid the rain, the day ended with our evaluators reviewing our performance and offering suggestions as to our techniques and methods. Evaluators checked for medical techniques, command post protocol, tracking methods, and how field teams and managers responded to unexpected events. In all, it is a comprehensive evaluation, and one of the most beneficial exercises that our team does each year.

Having outside observers evaluate your performance as a team is key to maintaining your team's readiness. My team's proficiency has improved steadily since initiating the MRA accreditation process nearly 10 years ago. I would highly recommend it to other teams. Full accrediation is not a simple matter, but I guarantee that your team will improve as a result. If your team is interested in pursuing MRA accreditation, feel free to contact me at any time with questions.


Missing Snowboarders in Coldwater Canyon (1/24/2010)

 At about 10:00pm on 1/24/10, I was driving to Redlands to stay at Sonny Lawrence's house, anticipating teaching BMC on Saturday.  A callout came over the phone, and I responded to Baldy Fire Station to search for the missing 3 snowboarders.  By the time I arrived, teams were already in the field and it was determined that the three teenagers had dropped into a drainage that funneled into Lytle Creek.  Bob Gattas of West Valley declared that the command post was moving to Fire Station #2 inLytle Creek, we packed up, and headed out. 

View Snowboarders Jan 2010 in a larger map

After regrouping, I was put on a team with John Metzger, John Norman, Dave Bullock, Trevor Walton, and Rico Gallardo.  We drove up the snow covered 4x4 road as far as we could go without chains.  Our assignment was to reach a drainage just over from Cold Water Canyon, where the snowboarders presumably came down.  The team started out on snow shoes at 2:30am from the truck.  We were on and off a 4x4 road for a while, crossed the creek, and eventually ended up on a ridge just above the drainage.  It was steep angle snow shoe traverses and crotch deep snow at times in 18 degree F weather.  The team did well, and we didn't take any real breaks because it was cold if you weren't moving.  Radio commuications were hard at times in our area.  The sun came up and we reached Cold Water Camp about 7:00am.   Then we headed towards the drainage, and sure enough we found snowboard tracks (3 sets), so the trail was hot.  

We were excited, running down the tracked out trail, and had voice contact within 10 min.  We found the 3 snowboarders and checked their conditions.  They were cold, cold feet, wet clothes, and hungry, but doing very well for folks stuck out all night in cold weather.  We changed their socks, got them some hot chocolate, gave them dry jackets and gloves, and they were instantly doing better.  They had built a survival shelter out of fallen tree limbs and insulated the floor with pine needles and such.  They were trying to start a fire when we found them.  We decided to hike them out since getting them moving would keep them warm.  The hike out was a little over 4 miles, but the 3 of them were creative and sat on their boards and sort of scooted down the trail so that they didn't sink in the snow.  We found the transport waiting for us back at the road and all was well. 


Richardson Search: Malibu Creek State Park

Members of West Valley SAR, SB Mountain SAR, Cave Team, and the Dog Team spent Saturday, January 9th searching for Mitrice Richardson. The folks from San Bernardino County were divided into two teams. My team, Team G-16, was tasked with clearing an area off Mulholland Drive. The search area consisted of a few drainages and heavy brush.We further divided into 3 teams to more effectively cover our area.

View Richardson Search in a larger map


Baldy Rescue 12/23/2009

A hiker lost her footing and tumbled down much of the Baldy Bowl this evening. West Valley SAR responded for the evacuation down the Sierra Hut Trail. A hoist was attempted by a Los Angeles County helicopter, but the hoist malfunctioned, and a second helicopter was summoned. In the meantime, members of West Valley SAR, Wrightwood SAR, Rim SAR, SB Mountain SAR, and the Cave & Technical Rescue Team responded to assist in the litter carry. The second helicopter arrived on scene and was able to hoist the hiker somewhere along the trail as SAR members continued the litter evacuation.

View Baldy Rescue 12/23/2009 in a larger map