Articles - Top Tips: Self-rescue techniques and equipment
Rescue kit. Photo: Plas y Brenin
Phil Douthwaite - Posted on 05 Aug 2010
To this end it helps to have a fairly vivid imagination. If you can dream up the worst ever scenario that might befall you on the crag then in your day to day climbing you will probably be able to best avoid those situations ever occurring. Which brings me round to the key point in improvised rescue; prevention is the best cure.
Sometimes, however, mishaps and accidents do happen so having a few well practiced techniques allied to some indispensable kit such as prussik loops, slings and karabiners means that you should be able to sort something out (even if it's only getting your hands free from holding a rope to enable you to call for help on the phone!).
TechniquesSix fundamental techniques you do need if you intend to operate somewhere that requires you to be confident and self sufficient in improvised rescue, like large sea cliffs or remote mountain terrain, are:
1. First aid training,
2. Locking off the belay plate,
3. Abseiling with a prussik brake,
4. Prussiking up and down a rope,
5. The principles of hoisting
6. How to escape the system.
GearGear that is useful to all of the above techniques, beyond what is carried on a standard rack of gear, may be something like the following:
• A couple of prussik loops made from 1.25m of 5 or 6mm cord
• A Wild Country Ropeman or Petzl Tibloc
• A DMM Revolver karabiner
• For first aid and attracting attention then a small whistle, tape and a penknife can also come in handy - remember Touching the Void!
To find out more about the techniques then there are some very helpful books, DVDs and courses. It will be of enormous help if the technical climbing element of these are written, filmed or staffed by mountain guides or instructors, who as part of their certification have to go through a lengthy training and assessment of improvised rescue. For the first aid in the outdoors then something along the lines of the rescue and emergency care course (REC) is an excellent benchmark.
Hopefully improvised rescue in most people’s cases is a rare occurrence indeed. Once equipped with all the above skills it should enable you to operate with confidence in the outdoors knowing that you can deal with some unforeseen problem should it ever arise. Remember that being forewarned is to be forearmed - safe climbing!
A qualified Mountain Guide, Phil has climbed extensively around the world including several Big Walls trips to Yosemite and the Zion valley.
Plas y Brenin National Outdoor Centre