Kristen Lodge – Grand County Search and Rescue: We will never charge for a rescue
Grand County, CO Colorado
Scenario #1: Two friends go for a hike to Byers Peak. One friend falls and breaks her ankle and cannot walk. They call 911 and Grand County Search and Rescue carry her out.
Injured Hiker Cost: $0.00
Scenario #2: Three friends are hiking on the Continental Divide Trail near Devil’s Thumb. Suddenly they can’t find the trail and become lost. They call 911 for help. They find the trail and exit at the trailhead as Grand County Search and Rescue arrive.
Lost Hiker Cost: $0.00
Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR) is an all volunteer field organization with 50 members. GCSAR assists skiers, snowmobilers, hikers, hunters, snowshoers, climbers, rafters, fishermen, mountain bikers, and lost children. They go to the scene for car wrecks, airplane accidents, forest fires and train derailments. It is one of 13 teams in the Rocky Mountain Region and is affiliated with the Mountain Rescue Association and the Colorado Search and Rescue Board. GCSAR will aid search and rescue operations outside of Grand County if needed due to their accreditation. The five areas of accreditation include: search, winter technical, avalanche rescue, vertical rescue, and low angle (car off road). They are tested for accreditation by other area search and rescue teams; tested by their peers.
Greg Foley is the public information officer for the GCSAR. Greg started the Alpine Rescue Team (Evergreen) in 1979 and joined GCSAR in 1984, when he moved to Grand County. I talked to Greg last month to see what is happening with the organization this year. He said that most calls they receive in winter are about snowmobilers but call volume has been down due to lack of snow and the economy. GCSAR has weekly training on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. Last month they practiced a snow evacuation on the Lower Hughes trail at Winter Park Resort. They set up a snow anchor, got someone in the toboggan, package them and lowered them to an ambulance.
As always, I wanted a female perspective. I talked to Sally Ryman who is a support level member of Grand County Search and Rescue. A support member is a full voting member and field ready. She joined the team in 2007 and at the beginning of this year was elected to the board. There are three women on the main team.
I asked her what it is like being a female team member. All members are accepted onto the team based on skills and physical capabilities, not on gender. “Being a part of this team gives me a sense of community and I have developed many friendships,” she said. Sally’s favorite part about being on the team: Bringing people back to their loved ones.
“Missions are not always fun, but training is and it’s fun to ride snowmobiles and repel over the side of a cliff.”
Their weekly ongoing training includes vertical evacuation, avalanche rescue, search techniques and land navigation. Training is free to members, and the team is open to prospective members.
A few times a year I see a help wanted ad in the newspaper and wonder if anyone joins the team. The ad usually starts with “Search and Rescue members needed: Odd Hours, Harsh Working Conditions, No Pay.”
There is something special about the people who choose to be on a search and rescue team. They get called in the middle of the night and search for the missing snowmobilers or hikers regardless of temperature or weather conditions. The people who volunteer for Grand County Search and Rescue are tough, kind, focused, gentle, trained, and they do it for free. The Search and Rescue website is http://www.grandcountysar.com.
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