Foley: Back to mountain rescue

Greg Foley
Search and rescue

After a four-month hiatus, we are eager to restart a regular mountain rescue column in Sky-Hi News.

The column was featured for two years through early 2017 and provides an avenue for Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR) to reach out to public with backcountry safety tips, mountain rescue news, survival techniques, first aid skills and other educational topics. Besides providing a team of trained volunteers to assist Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin in providing search and rescue service in Grand County, we also promote safety in mountain recreation and foster mountain rescue as an independent discipline in the realm of emergency services.

The Mountain Rescue column will appear every other Friday in both the print and e-edition. I will be the primary columnist, but will be tapping the diverse knowledge base of our members for some of the writing. Some information bears repeating, so you may see some topic overlap across an annual schedule. If readers have a topic request please bring it on.

Some background information on GCSAR. We are an all-volunteer 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that has been proudly supporting the Grand County Sheriff since 1985. Members are on call 24-7-365, in any weather for any mountain rescue need. Average annual mission load is 40-50, with about 30 actual field missions. A mission can last anywhere from 15 minutes to several days to resolve. Reach us in an emergency by dialing or texting 9-1-1.

Most of our missions are located in the backcountry, but we occasionally assist on steep terrain near a roadway or help with in-town searches for missing people. We work closely with the Sheriff, Police Departments, EMS and Fire Departments as required.

GCSAR does not charge for rescue. Never have, never will. We believe that if a victim has to consider a financial hit that they may delay a call for help which could be detrimental to their situation. It may also add to the danger rescuers face. We would much rather get a mission started early and get turned around than arrive late to a bad situation.

We receive a large portion of our funding from Grand County via a line item on the Sheriff’s budget. The balance of our annual funding comes from grants and donations. The County also supports us by providing space for vehicles, training and equipment storage at the Fraser Road and Bridge shop.

Currently we have about 45 team members who represent a cross section of Grand County residents. Maybe a third of that number have been with the team for more than five years, turnover is a problem most mountain rescue teams deal with. Members supply their own personal gear, which can amount to a significant investment, and are expected to maintain a current training level.

GCSAR is an accredited member of the national Mountain Rescue Association (MRA). That means we are evaluated by our peers on other MRA teams in various mountain rescue disciplines every five years. There are 11 accredited MRA teams in Colorado, about 50 nationwide.

It takes a trained and coordinated team to accomplish mountain rescue, everything we do is a team effort. Saving a life in the backcountry requires hours and hours of training, fundraising efforts, equipment maintenance, administration, committee meetings – and then some more training. We spend way more time training then we do on actual missions. In 2016 members reported nearly 4000 training hours with only 1300 hours on actual missions. Another 1000 hours was spent on administration, maintenance and public education. That’s more than 6000 hours of time donated for the welfare of Grand County residents and visitors.

GCSAR is very appreciative of the opportunity provided by Sky-Hi News and hope to develop a strong readership that will value our insight into mountain rescue, backcountry safety and community involvement.

Greg Foley is a member of Grand County Search and Rescue and has been a mountain rescue volunteer for 37 years. He can be reached by email at The GCSAR website can be found at or on Facebook/GCSAR.

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