June 27, 2014

Crocker Mountain Hiker Rescue, June 24, 2014

Crocker Rescue 6-24-2014

On Tuesday, June 24, around 4 p.m., FSAR was notified that there was a possible rescue of a through hiker in need on the A.T., reportedly approximately 4 miles south of Maine Rt. 27 in the Crocker mountains.

FSAR team member Barry L. was working a shift with NorthStar ambulance and responded to the Rt. 27 A.T. south trailhead along with his paramedic partner, Corey B, and Harold S.  The initial response 'hasty team' was made up of 4 people, Maine game warden Scott Stevens, community volunteer Jake C, and NorthStar paramedic, Steve N, and Barry L. The plan was to make contact with the hiker (who had cell service) and then call for additional backup if needed. The crew hiked for more than 5 miles in approximately four hours before finally making physical contact with the patient just south of North Crocker. Fortunately, cell coverage allowed for updates with the patient before the hasty team arrived at the patient. Meanwhile, a crew made up of Eustis and Phillips firefighters staged at the initial command post at the AT trailhead in case a carry out was needed.

Steve M. put FSAR on ‘standby’ around 5 p.m. and 6 team members indicated that they were available to respond if needed. Pete B, an FSAR team member who was also on duty for Northstar at the time, called to discuss and pre-plan some different scenarios. FSAR member Al called and suggested that, if needed, the Plumb Creek Road could be utilized to drive within 1 mile of the summit of North Crocker on a bushwhack trail.

The Maine Forest Service  was also contacted about the possibility of using a helicopter to short-haul the hiker off the trail. They responded with a helo while there was still daylight, but strong winds and poor visibility in fog, and a lowering cloud ceiling made a short-haul too risky.

Weather moves over the summit of Crocker Mtn. preventing a MFS short-haul. 
(photo Pete Boucher)

Once the hasty team made contact with the patient, the Northstar medic, examined the hiker. He began treatment for dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea possibly from food poisoning.

As darkness was quickly approaching, Barry requested that a group of FSAR members gather food, tents, sleeping bags and headlamps to re-supply the hasty/medical team near the summit of North Crocker for a possible overnight on the trail as the weather was forecasted to deteriorate. Pat C, Devin L. and Steve M. staged at the Kingfield Fire Station at 9 p.m. and were hiking from the parking lot on the Caribou Valley Rd. around 10 p.m.  

Devin and Mit discuss and sort gear and food for the hasty team at KFD before moving to the trailhead.

Hasty team member Stevens (MWS) was being ‘shadowed’ by a camera crew from the 'Northwoods Law' reality television program. Although the 4 man crew was apparently in good physical shape for the hike, they carried little personal gear and were unprepared to spend the night with the patient on the mountain. This scenario was looking like a real possibility at this point. Once patient treatment had begun, warden Stevens hiked the camera team back down the mountain via South Crocker and Caribou Valley.

The heavily loaded resupply team (weighed later, Mit’s pack was nearly 50 lbs!) began the nighttime ascent of South Crocker at a surprisingly moderate pace. The resupply team encountered the departing camera team next to Crocker Cirque. One cameraman was using the very bright on-camera LED studio light for hiking illumination! After a brief break to swap info and a few stories, both groups continued.

Meanwhile the patient was responding well to treatment and eventually felt strong enough to attempt a slow hike down the mountain. Around midnight, Barry radioed the resupply team and recommended they stop climbing and to stage on the trail and wait for the descending medical team. The team was an estimated 30 minutes from the summit of South Crocker at this point. At 12:30 a.m. the medical team met up with the resupply group and provided snacks to the hasty team during a trailside break.

SOP for rescue: "hurry up and wait!" the re-supply team waits on the A.T. just above Crocker Cirque
 for the hasty team rendezvous.  

Soon we all began the slow descent down to the parking area on the Caribou Valley Rd. The patient was uncomfortable but was also chatty and kept up a reasonable pace stopping every 20-30 minutes to rest.

Rescuers take a break during the hike off South Crocker around 1:30 a.m.

At 2:15 a.m., the party hit the parking area where the patient was immediately escorted to the waiting Northstar SUV with Medic Lee I. The patient was then shuttled down the Caribou Valley logging road and out to a waiting ambulance on Rt. 27 where he was evaluated and transported to FMH.

Overall the rescue was a success. No rescuers were injured, and the patient was connected with medical care as quickly and safely as possible.

As with all search and rescue calls, FSAR team members plan to critique the rescue to share perspectives, list effective practices and to learn from the things that we would do differently next time.

Observations respectfully submitted by S. Mitman 6-26-2014

June 24, 2014

Largay Search 6-17-2014

Largay Search Description by Jim Logan

At 5:30 am on Tuesday June 17, five members of FSAR met at Avon

Airport for a MASAR search for Gerry

Largay. The five were Melissa, Jim A, Steve M, Josh, and Jim L. The team was

assigned an area of wilderness north of the AT that included some steep cliff bands. We were in hopes that after nearly

eleven months there would be a better chance of clues as animals would

likely have gone through any packs or clothing seeking what they could

use. This would probably distribute traces through a broader area.

The day was dry and never got especially hot and leaves kept us shaded

so we had good weather for our work. After probably three miles of AT hiking,

we entered the woods at about 9:30 and quickly came to old slide areas

covered with lots of vegetation and hiding cleverly disguised holes for our

legs to find. Everyone went in to the hip at least once, and Old Jim got his

foot quite entangled once (he was rescued by Young Jim). It also became

very steep and there were cliffs to be negotiated. There were blowdowns,

too. However, we never did encounter the dense stands of small spruce

that so plagued us on last years’ searches. Still, the overall effect was at

least equally miserable.

The usual challenges with the DeLorme GPS surfaced, but with three

competent GPS users and personal devices we managed to sort things

out and the team worked well together covering the area with out-and-back

progressions. We found no indications of any kind that Largay or any other

human had been there. The covered area was quite inhospitable for travel

by humans or other animals and it seemed unlikely that Largay would have

gone far into it. However, there were many caves and other places where

she could be very well hidden if she had made it into this zone and we did

our best to locate any kind of evidence.

The group worked well as a unit and felt we had put forth a solid effort. Also

involved that day were eight members of Mahoosic SAR working their own

area closer to the Poplar Ridge Lean-To. Very surprisingly, we all emerged

from the woods at the same time and Mahoosic had the same frustrations

we did.

All the SAR participants returned to their cars after ten hours on the search.

We were back at the airport twelve hours after we had assembled there in

the morning.

We did a post-operation critique and felt good about our work. We decided

we had a good sized group and that too many more might have been

unwieldy unless we had enough for two units. Among things to remember

for future searches were considerations of available water: there was none

after crossing the Orbeton Stream at the very beginning and fortunately we

planned for this. Also, we decided orange clothing was superior to bright

yellow. Additionally, at the lunch break we thrashed out what more we

could accomplish and how long it would take to exit the woods and get to

the car and get out. This made our afternoon work goals more reasonable

than they might have been if we had just dived in with no plan for what

we could prudently get done. (It was interesting that this was an important

question on what was nearly the longest day of the year; gauging the

capacity of team energy is important too. An expectations and exit plan

is worth considering at every search lunch time break.) Additionally, we

communicated effectively with CP through texting as well as radio, and this

was very good to know. And, as ever with searches, we stressed the need

to keep the group together at all times.

It was another FSAR job well done.

June 15, 2014

An Interview with Returning FSAR Member Devin Littlefield

Devin Littlefield joined FSAR as a 'student member' when he was in high school. Recently Devin returned to the area after his graduation from Alaska Pacific University.  The team was reacquainted with Devin on Wednesday when he attended the monthly FSAR meeting. 

I recently had a chance to interview Devin about his time in AK.

Hi Devin, welcome back! What was your major at APU?
I majored in Outdoor Studies with a minor in Business Administration and Management. Through the OS program, I've been able to learn the skills necessary for different activities in the outdoors and how to be an effective leader of those activities. Having a background in business has allowed me to look into the big picture and future plans involving business and the outdoors.

What kinds of classes did you take in the program?
Some of my basic classes were: Introduction to Wilderness Skills, Intro. to Winter Wilderness, Wilderness First Responder, Intro. to Rope Systems, Intro to Ice Climbing, Swiftwater Rescue and Expedition Leadership to name a few. Some of my business courses were: Intro. to Business, Marketing, Financial Accounting and other similar courses.

What kinds of wilderness experiences did you have in the program?
I've had a wide variety of experiences. From multi-day winter camping to a 22-day backpacking trip, I've gotten many opportunities to explore Alaska and really experience everything that it had to offer.

What did you do for outdoor recreation while in Alaska?
I did a little bit of everything! I did some backcountry skiing, nordic skiing in town, mountain and road biking, various climbing trips and countless number of hikes. These were all during my off time when I wasn't in class or work.

Did you participate in any SAR calls, or training, if so can you share some cases?
I unfortunately did not get the opportunity to join a SAR team while I was in Alaska. They have a very different way of operating their organization, with a requirement of being a resident of Alaska in order to join, which I was not able to do.

Can you share a memorable wilderness experience you had during your time in AK?
Two of the craziest experiences had to have been either sleeping in a floor-less tent during a winter camping trip when it was -15 below or almost skiing into a moose while ski-jouring. While these were both interesting experiences, the one that takes the cake was being surrounded by wolves during a backpacking trip.

What are you doing now?
I am now working for Maine Huts & Trails as the Marketing & Merchandise Associate, focusing on generating new Digital Media for online consumption with an emphasis on photography and videography.

Looking ahead, what goals have you set for yourself in the future?
I have a few goals in mind: my first is to learn as much as I can about search and rescue as an active member of FSAR, continue to grow in my career path of Digital Media and to start my own eco-tourist business, to name a few.

Thanks Devin, It's great to have you back in the area and back on the team!