Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018 National Cave Rescue Commission Weeklong Seminar, Alabama

 One of my hobbies is to teach cave rescue techniques with the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC). This year's weeklong seminar was in Mentone, Alabama. At first I wasn't going to go because May is always a crazy month, but Camp Skyline is such a nice location and I really wanted to see friends. So by shaving a day off at the beginning and end of the trip, I was able to make it work.

I arrived late the night before classes started and joined everyone in the cafeteria in the morning for the opening session. Then we split into our individual classes. This year I taught SPAR-X, or Extended Small Party Assisted Rescue. This was our pilot weeklong class. Our classroom was quite reminiscent of many shorter SPAR classes where we've rented out a house for a long weekend.

We didn't spend much time in the classroom. We were soon out on the cliffs practicing techniques that didn't use much gear or many people.

The cliff site worked really well for us, and we even had some rebelays to negotiate with a patient going both up and down.

The extra time also allowed for practicing some more advanced skills, and stacking different techniques to solve different problems.

We also had some gym time, and at one point we had all the students on rope at the same time!

Many evenings involved the math and physics behind what we were doing. Students loved it, and they even enjoyed the homework!

We also had some time in caves, which is always good for a cave rescue class. For our final scenario, we split into three groups, and each group had to rescue a person through multiple problems. This was a fun traverse--not your usual up/down haul.

The groups did great with the rescue practice.

At the last obstacle near the entrance, each group solved the problem a different way.

The group I was with did a very simple haul that was super fast.

A cave salamander watched us all go by.

Here's a slightly blurry photo of our class. We were all smiles after six days of great SPAR-X fun. This is a super class, and if you ever want to learn how to do rescues with minimal people and gear, I highly recommend it.

The only downside was that I brought a hitchhiker back with me from Alabama, a little deer tick. Fortunately I haven't had any symptoms of Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases, but I'm still not out of the woods yet (even though I sort of am!). This tick identification website was really helpful.
At least I didn't get poison ivy! I just need to figure out a way to drop right into the caves, where there aren't so many things to look out for.

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