When the going gets tough: on the importance of safety

There were already dark clouds moving in when we started climbing up the tower. It was getting stormy, but I was confident that we would be able to climb to the top of Gallatin Tower as a party of three, and get off of it, before the power of nature was released down upon us. Then, at the top of pitch two, a party was injured and needed help getting off of the climb, not necessarily knowing what they were doing up there. To make matters worse, one of my partners was stuck in the middle of pitch two with a sprained ankle, unable to move and keep climbing. It proceeded to start raining.

Hopefully, most of you reading this recognize this situation as not being ideal. Hopefully, those reading this have a clue what to do to get out of this situation. Sadly, I doubt that is the case for most people at MSU. Whether it is climbing, biking, skiing or just simply adventuring in the outdoors, things can go wrong. There are certain skills that have to be learned in order to avoid such scenarios and how to deal with them when they occur. For both your safety, and your friends’ safety, these skills are not to be taken lightly.

For the situation I painted above I had to respond with proper medical training and self rescue skills. Luckily, the injury I dealt with was very simple and not much could have been done to make it better in that moment. The climber had pulled his entire forearm in a fall and therefore could no longer climb or even close his hand. For the climber below, stuck in the middle of pitch two, I had to escape the belay, fix a line down to her, transfer her to a tandem rappel, and rappel all the way to the base of the tower. Following that, I had to ascend the rope to help get the other people off of the tower. This sounds like it should have taken a long time; however it only took about four hours including climbing and ascending the rope, because I knew what to do.

I can only speak to what is needed to be known for climbing and skiing, as I don’t do much besides those activities. However, for both climbing and skiing, it is pertinent that people get wilderness first aid training. Taking a Wilderness First Responder class is perhaps one of the best things you can do if you climb or backcountry ski. While it won’t make you a superhero, capable of saving everyone with a flick of your wrist, it will let you know how not to make matters worse and extend the possibility of a rescue coming in as opposed to a recovery crew. Specifically, for rock climbing and those venturing into multi-pitch climbs, self rescue is very important to know. Take a class, or at the very least learn from a friend. Practice until you can do these without question.

 

Despite the rescue off of Gallatin Tower being my only time actually needing to use rescue skills, it didn’t phase me on what I had to do. For skiing, get your avalanche rescue skills nailed, and  learn how to read avalanche terrain perfectly. Regardless of the activity, take time to actively practice what to do in all sorts of scenarios. Make it a game with your friends on who can be the safest and most efficient. There have been enough recent deaths in the outdoor community to recognize the importance of knowing what to do in an emergency. A safe adventurer is a sexy adventurer.