I don’t know the year exactly when this occurred. It was the first or second weekend in June. We were presenting a training program known as basic one. Basic one is the first field basic training for new members of the Rescue Patrol. Basic one presents such tasks as field searching, different types of search, land navigation and orientation, basic patient movement including the use of litters and the little wheel, first aid, communications, night searching and the like. Basic one is our first opportunity to get new members in the field and start to get them oriented to the environment, that we function in. It is designed to be fast-paced, and to be a significant emotional and physical event. Before the first field training, basic one, the members have had many hours of classroom instruction. Basic one begins on a Friday evening and ends on Sunday afternoon. This particular basic training took place on the Rampart Range very near a place called Devils Head. Devils Head is a 9,748-foot peak (peak is a bit grandiose but I’ll use it). It is a commonly used recreation area there is a trail all the way to the top of the mountain where one of the few remaining fire lookout towers in the country still exist to this day. The purpose the fire lookout is just what it sounds like there is a structure built on the very peak of the mountain that has radios and an awesome sight-compass and binoculars for the lookout to spot smokes. Many people take the opportunity to climb the trail and go all the way to the top to the fire lookout to see the lookout itself and to receive their squirrel card attesting to their assent.
We received a report of an injured climber somewhere around 330 or 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. We immediately assembled the team including some of the new members and necessary equipment and responded to the Devils Head trail. When we arrived there I believe there was someone there to lead us to the injured subject a young man who had fallen while climbing. We assemble the rescue team and begin to move toward the rescue. In this case a rescue team was made up of probably 20 rescuers. Myself, my buddy David and I’m sure two or three others were part of the original/advanced team.
As we proceeded up the trail, which is a steep son of a bitch, the weather changed rapidly as it is wont to do in the summer. A thunder Experienced Rescue Teams cell had moved in and it began to rain and much more concerning for us to begin to lightning all around. I have been caught in a couple of lightning storms in the mountains and I got to tell ya that it is not a pleasant experience.
We arrived and found a young man, late teens I think that had taken a good fall wall climbing and was pretty beat up. His head and chest were okay but I was concerned about his belly I thought he probably had a broken pelvis. In other words he had serious potentially life-threatening injuries.
I begin to assess the man’s injuries and begin treatment. He had a cervical collar applied, two large IVs established, he was placed on oxygen, and then he was placed in a Stokes litter. While we were going through this David was above us rigging the technical rescue system that would allow us to safely move the patient from where he was and get to the trail where he would be carried out to the trailhead/parking lot. We had already called for a helicopter for a medevac. By that point it was really beginning to rain hard.
While the rope rescue system was being put into place officers were lining out other members to assist with the carryout. One officer always takes the role of Pathfinder and flagging (engineers tape) and/or light sticks (chem-lights) to guide our way out of the forest and onto the trail.
We managed to finish getting the patient treated and packaged before all of the rope systems and personnel were in place. It is always a good idea to utilize times like that to reassess your patient and make sure you haven’t missed anything or that they have not had some change in their condition.
With some sweat and cussing we managed to get the patient up and out of the little cave area we were in. The area was heavily vegetated and had a lot of down and dead trees. Then the litter was attached to the rope system and we began to haul the litter with the patient toward the trail. By that time we had a litter shield; that is a Plexiglas cover that protects the patient’s face. When we started out doing rescue there was no such animal. It took probably 20 minutes to a half an hour to move the litter to a point where we could attach the litter wheel and begin the trail part of the carryout. The litter wheel is a godsend. It is a large ATV type wheel that attaches with a frame to the bottom of a Stokes litter.