Last week the SAR (search and rescue) team packed up two of our Hägglunds with the six-person team plus our intrepid senior field training officer (Mark) and all the gear we’d need to safely descend an icy cliff to retrieve a patient before then ascending the same cliff to the waiting transport to station. This activity took place at “End Wave”; an icy anomaly formed by a glacier rubbing past a mountain range, in this case Onley Hill and the Mt Henderson Range.
A few anchors were established, using some ice screws and some vee threads; the latter being a pair of holes drilled in the ice that intersect with a tape threaded through and tied into a loop. Anchors were then equalised to share the load, and then rigged with two different ropes (red and white). Once this was complete, a harnessed-up volunteer (actually, Leon was voluntold) who was intricately laced into the system we had prepared, safety checks were completed before the team lowered Leon to the bottom of the cliff.
A few more “raises”, then re-rigging for “lowers” to react to the change in load that we the team had to return to the top of the cliff. This gave us the opportunity to rig additional mechanical advantage to take an additional person, a patient or additional attendant. Donna, our amazing chef, volunteered (choice was given?) to be the additional attendant on the second run down and back up. A three to one system with a couple of pullies is generally good for a single person. Even with Donna’s feather-light stature, we changed to a five to one using another pair of pullies to ease the burden on the team of three left hauling, two on one rope and one on the other.
Last of all, I was lowered slowly over the edge. Once on the bottom, I was able to take a couple of photos of the landscape and snow petrels that came in for a peek. Once the calls signified that the team were ready, I was lifted to the top again, where I was given a stretcher to manoeuvre to the bottom to pick up Mark, who had abseiled down to meet me. The ascent was slow but steady with a nine to one reduction utilised to allow a smoother transition from vertical across the edge.
Once all the ropes and anchors had been packed up, we paused for a team photo with a sense of achievement.
Once all that training was complete, we were all prepared to receive our first flight. Kenn Borek Airlines pilot Doug, along with his crew of co-pilot Bryce and engineer Brayden and Davis’s FTO Jason, flew in from Davis on Saturday morning in their Twin Otter aircraft; as a prelim to an upcoming personnel changeover in the coming week or so. The team spent an hour or so on the ground stretching their legs, before heading back to Davis station that afternoon. We’ll be seeing you again soon!
Station Mechanical Supervisor and SAR team member (among other things)