You can't always expect a helicopter rescueHelicopter rescues can be quite difficult or impossible.
Helicopters can't fly in all kinds of weather or to all places.
Especially in the mountains, vertical takeoffs and hovering might not be possible where you choose to get hurt.
Rescues endanger rescuers' lives. Rescues are discretionary; rescuer safety is the first priority.
The NPS explains a short haul:
"When there is no suitable spot to land a helicopter, the shorthaul
method is used to place rescue personnel, who are suspended below the helicopter by a
double rope system, into a location near the patient; the injured person is then secured into either
an evacuation suit or a rescue litter to be airlifted for a short flight to another landing spot where
the ship can safely touch down."
The view down to the victim:
(Photos on this page courtesy of the National Park Service.)
Grand Teton National Park News Release
Park Rangers Rescue Injured Exum Guide from Symmetry Spire
Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued an injured Exum Mountain guide from Symmetry Spire on Saturday afternoon, August 5. The Exum Mountain Guides office contacted the Jenny Lake ranger station at 2:30 p.m. to notify them that an accident involving their guide, Mark Newcomb, age 39, of Jackson, Wyoming, had just occurred. Newcomb was leading two clients on an ascent of the Direct Jensen Ridge of Symmetry Spire when he took an 80-foot fall at approximately 9,600 feet in elevation.
Newcomb was positioned about 100 feet above his clients, and about 300 feet from the top of the Direct Jensen Ridge on a pitch rated 5.7 on the Yosemite Decimal System. The accident occurred when Newcomb reached for a hand-hold and the block of rock dislodged, causing him to grab a second hold, which also broke off. At the time of the accident, Newcomb was 40 feet above his last point of protection, which held. One of Newcomb’s clients was belaying him, which helped buffer Newcomb’s fall. The clients slowly lowered him 20 feet to the narrow ledge where they were perched.
Park rangers immediately began to coordinate a highly technical rescue response which included extensive air operations, as well as staging rangers in the vicinity of Symmetry Spire for a potential ground response in the event that weather precluded a helicopter evacuation.
Initially the park’s interagency contract helicopter, with three rangers aboard, flew a reconnaissance flight to observe the scene and determine the best approach and technical requirements for the rescue operation. The helicopter then picked up two rangers and inserted them by the short-haul technique onto the vertical rock wall where Newcomb was situated (the short-haul technique is a method by which rangers fly, individually or in pairs, suspended from the helicopter on a double-rope system).
These rangers assessed Newcomb’s condition and provided emergency medical care. Two additional rangers were also inserted via short-haul to assist in the technical operation. While the helicopter hovered above the scene, the two clients were placed into evacuation suits, then attached to the short-haul rope and flown out. After delivering the clients to Lupine Meadows, the helicopter air-lifted a rescue litter to the accident scene and returned to Lupine Meadows to refuel. Meanwhile, rangers placed Newcomb into the rescue litter and prepared him for the short-haul flight. The helicopter returned to the accident scene and hovered while rangers attached the litter to the short-haul line.
Newcomb was flown to Lupine Meadows, arriving at 5:15 p.m. While Newcomb was transported by park ambulance to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, the helicopter made two additional trips to Symmetry Spire, flying the rangers out in tandem suspended by the short-haul rope. Newcomb was released from the hospital Saturday evening, after treatment for minor injuries, including lacerations, abrasions and bruises.
Rangers commended pilot, John Bourke, of Heli-Express, for his highly skilled and technical flying. Heli-Express of Atlanta, Georgia has the contract for the park’s interagency helicopter; the ship is an A-Star. This incident required extensive high elevation flying and hovering adjacent to sheer cliff walls with late afternoon winds, an approaching storm, helicopter rotor wash, and people suspended below the ship. There is no margin for error in this type of rescue flying. Bourke made seven round-trip flights to provide reconnaissance, insert rangers, evacuate clients, evacuate the injured climber, and finally retrieve rangers at the completion of the rescue operation.
from the National Park Service morning report of Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Yosemite National Park (CA)Cables Route, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley
– On Sunday,
the park received several 911 cell phone transfers
regarding a person who’d slipped outside the cables on
Half Dome and slid 100 to 150 feet down onto the blank face.
He was lying precariously on the face,
using only the friction of his body against the rock to
stop him from falling more than 800 feet to the ground.
A ranger and a SAR climbing team were immediately dispatched
to the incident location. The Yosemite rescue/fire helicopter
was unavailable, so a primary rescue team was put on standby
to await the arrival of another helicopter to fly them to the
shoulder of Half Dome. A helicopter from Sequoia/Kings Canyon
responded to the request for mutual aid assistance a
nd was the first available for the mission.
Unfortunately, due to the time it took to free up a helicopter,
more than two hours passed before technical rescuers were on scene.
SAR technicians then repelled down to the man and rescued him.
Although uninjured, he was treated for hypothermia at
Yosemite Medical Center and later released.
From the National Park Service Daily Report of Thursday, April 10, 2008
Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)
Taser Used On Drunk And Abusive Wrangler
On Thursday, April 3rd, the ranger working at Phantom responded to calls for assistance from the Phantom Ranch staff, who were dealing with a drunken wrangler at the ranch canteen who was being both verbally and physically abusive. The ranger used her taser to subdue the man and take him into custody. Providing her with backup proved a challenge. Phantom is 5,000 feet below the canyon rim and accessible only by foot, mule or helicopter. Since it was almost dark, the park helicopter could not respond. Lack of moonlight also meant that a Department of Public Safety helicopter equipped with night vision goggles was also unable to fly. Two rangers therefore had to hike down the seven-and-a-half-mile long trail to support the ranger during the wrangler’s overnight custody. While waiting the two hours for backup to arrive and still managing the belligerent wrangler, the ranger also had to take care of a 14-year-old girl who had suffered second and third degree burns at the Phantom campground. The burned girl and the wrangler were flown out on the first two park helicopter flights the next morning. [Submitted by John Evans, Park Ranger]
Cost of a rescue? Many rescues are simple and fast, such as a child who wanders away from a family campsite. But prolonged recscues are expensive, especially in more rugged and remote parks. Denali in Alaska had three costing $118,000 $127,000, and $132,000. One rescue attempt of two backcountry skiers who died in an avalanche in Grand Teton in 2011 cost $115,000, twice the cost of any previous search and rescue in that park. The helicopter leased for that search cost $33,000.
see also: fatal, near fatal or close call incidents/accidents in camping, backpacking, climbing and mountaineering
see also: Cell phones in the wilderness which has advice on how/when to use a cell phone to contact 911 in the wilderness and a warning about interference between cell phones, iPods and avalanche beacons.
Grand Teton park spokesperson Jackie Skaggs said because of having an electronic device, "people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued. Every once in awhile we get a call from someone who has gone to the top of a peak, the weather has turned and they are confused about how to get down and they want someone to personally escort them. The answer is that you are up there for the night."
see also: GPS is not infallible
Thunderstorm and lightning safety includes a warning about not using your cell phone or IPod during a storm.