I thought some of you would appreciate reading about this book and maybe purchasing it. I plan on getting a copy for myself as I believe it shares with the hiking and climbing community what everyone aught to know about what search and rescue people experience and have to live with.
Cheers and happy New Year to all from cold frigid Utah...
The book on rescue response - A responder's tale » Mountaineer, EMT and storyteller rolled into one make Steve Achelis and his new book about rescues in canyons a memorable ride. - By Brett Prettyman
Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:01/07/2010 12:01:15 PM MST
Memories await Steve Achelis around every corner in the canyons of the Wasatch Front. Like most other visitors, he has fond recollections of hikes with his daughters or time spent climbing with his friends.
Then there are the "other" experiences: lost hikers; skiers buried in avalanches; climbers dangling motionless from ropes; and death.
"I drive up the canyons and I can tell stories around every turn. At least it seems that way," said Achelis, who spent six years working on the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team. "They are kind of like 'I remember that hike or the time we camped there,' but I used to worry that I might see ghosts."
Achelis, who has participated in hundreds of callouts, including 40 fatalities, tells some of the stories of his time with search and rescue in his new book, Mountain Responder: When Recreation and Misfortune Collide.
Achelis, 52, has been a backcountry enthusiast his entire life and has accumulated a variety of wilderness medical skills. About a decade ago, he was driving down Little Cottonwood Canyon with his daughter when they saw a rescue in progress.
"I asked her if she ever thought of being a rescuer. It put a seed in my mind," he said.
Achelis applied a year later. He was confident in his technical and medical skills, but wondered how he would handle the death that is too frequently a part of search and rescue.
"I had no experience in dealing with death, none," he said. "I had never even been to a funeral with an open casket. I saw 23 dead people in the next two years. It was a dramatic change. It never gets easy."
But it doesn't always end in bad news. There were many times Achelis and his teammates were able to retrieve injured victims and return them to their families.
The satisfaction of seeing victims reunited with their loved ones made the chaos of being called out five times in 40 hours to assist nine people, as happened in July 2003, worth the effort. Then there was the victim in a unique case who "came back to life" after Achelis was incorrectly told that the person had died.
Even jobs that ended in the discovery of a body provided a sense of accomplishment for Achelis and the team, but feelings of pride in such cases were rarely displayed.
"There is a feeling of success in the discovery, especially in really difficult cases. We accomplished our mission and that feels good," Achelis said. "But we were very aware what that news meant to the families and made sure we acted appropriately."
The book provides an in-depth look at the complex operations of search and rescue and insight into the people who don't mind being called out at 3 a.m. to pull someone out of a raging creek or put themselves in harm's way to try to save someone who may already be dead.
Achelis, a software designer, no longer serves on the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, but he continues to work as on the Brighton Ski Patrol and for Wasatch Backcountry Rescue.
How to avoid the need to be rescued
Always tell people where you are going and when you will be back. If your plans change let someone know.
Take a cell phone with a charged battery. Coverage is available along most of the Wasatch Front. Rescue attempts can get complicated quickly when a cell phone dies.
Take enough gear to spend the night. That doesn't mean a sleeping bag and a tent. A coat, gloves and a hat and space blanket are the basics.
Always take a flashlight or a headlamp. If you end up stranded at night, a flashlight can make a huge difference in the ability of rescuers to find you.
Don't take unnecessary risks. Consider the consequences of each decision. Recalculate those risks as the situation dictates.
Steve Achelis, author of Mountain Responder: When Recreation and Misfortune Collide
Mountain Responder: When Recreation and Misfortune Collide
Steve Achelis, Dog Ear Publishing, $16.95