March 12, 2017

Baxter Winter Mountaineering Training March, 2017


(Each winter, the rangers at Baxter State Park host a winter rescue training for MASAR team members. This year FSAR sent 3 members to participate. )

Baxter State Park Winter Mountaineering Training March 3-5, 2017

By Sarah Nutt

Friday afternoon Shannon practiced his spring driving skills by expertly avoiding all the potholes and (precariously overstacked) logging trucks on the Golden Road. Once at Abol Bridge, we loaded our gear into the Ranger's waiting snowmobiles and then walked the mile+ into Abol Field Camp. That first night the rangers presented a slideshow on avalanches. We then broke into the 3 groups we would be working with for the duration of the weekend.

At 0630 Saturday morning, we rallied outside to load onto the SAR transporter and the back of snowmos. Due to the high winds and cooler temps, the rangers decided to base our training around Katahdin Falls where there was a little more protection from the wind. After buliding a just-in-case fire in the stove at the ranger station, we broke into our groups and rotated through stations. We dug T-trenches and "buried" pickets in the snow--this was mostly a theoretical conversation as the snow was thick ice sheets sandwiching sugar snow and only about 6-8 inches deep in most places. We also build a picket line for ascending and practiced using a variety of different ascending mechanisms. At the crampon and ice axe station we practiced walking with crampons on, keeping the ice axe ready in case of a fall. We discussed the pros and cons of different styles of crampons and axes as well. At the ave beacon station we trained with beacons and search techniques. It was especially interesting to work with the beacons when they were picking up multiple signals and how the signals were picked up when they were significantly higher or lower than the receiving beacon. That evening, after a quick debrief, we cozied around the heater and listened to some wonderful stories from Mike, Rob, and Bob and tried to stay up later than Mike's kids' bedtime which is 7pm.

Sunday morning we were woken up by the wind. We still went up to Abol Slide though, as the temps did rise some. After ascending to just about tree line, we worked on self arrest techniques with our ice axes (that would have helped me a lot during my childhood sledding "events"). We also built another ascending line with pickets and practiced going up with prusicks. We then rapped down on munter hitches as the stiff, cold 11mm rope wouldn't fit in anyone's ATCs. Additionally, we built bollards in the snow and prusicked a bunch of folks onto the belay line off the bollard. We finally broke the smaller one which was approximately 2ftx3ft. It took 7 people surging on it. After a quick hike down, we had our final debrief and then climbed back on snowmos to head out. 

It was a really great weekend to focus on basic skills, have good conversation, and build community between the SAR teams from across the state.

Rob and Shannon practice the Munter Hitch

Shannon descending Abol Slide

Shannon ascending Abol Slide

Hiking up to Abol Slide and enjoying the warmth of the sun

Hiking up to Abol Slide

Jeff and Katahdin! End of Saturday.

Katahdin Stream

Group Exercises on Saturday

Shannon staying warm!

Jeff ready for action