When An Accident Happens

Leadership and discipline are key elements of success in alpine rescue. If your party has no recognized leader, select one to take charge in an emergency. The leader should consider suggestions from other members of the party, but the leader's decisions must be accepted without argument.

Go to the aid of an injured climber quickly—but move carefully to avoid any further accidents. On difficult terrain, dispatch only one or two rescuers, who are on belay and packing all the needed aid and rescue gear. As you climb or rappel down to an injured climber, keep to one side to avoid the danger of knocking rocks onto the victim. Stay calm; frenzied activity only complicates the rescue.

Urgent first aid should be rendered as soon as possible: bleeding stopped, breathing restarted, shock relieved, fractures immobilized. If it becomes necessary to move the victim to another spot because the accident site is too hazardous, use methods that will not compound the injuries.

It's important to keep close watch over the injured climber. A victim who is left unguarded, even for a few moments, must be tied to the mountain to prevent the danger of falling or wandering off, perhaps due to confusion or irrationality. Design the tie-in so that the climber cannot unfasten it.

In dealing with an emergency, swift action may be less effective than correct action. A hasty splitting up of the climbing party or any other spontaneous but shortsighted effort has less chance of ultimate success than one more deliberately considered. Therefore, after the initial demands of safety and first aid are satisfied, the leader and party sit down to plan. Everything must be thought through to the very end, everything prearranged, including what each person is to do under all circumstances throughout the rescue operation.

Every aspect of the situation needs cool analysis. How serious are the injuries? What measures are necessary to sustain the victim during evacuation? What is the terrain like and how far is it to the road? What are the strengths and resources of the party? Only after careful analysis of such questions should your party select a course of action.

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