As the only collegiate-based mountain rescue team certified by the Mountain Rescue Association, the team has spent the winter meeting two to three times a week to practice for scenarios that team members hope will never happen: lost hunting parties, rock climbing days gone wrong, inclement weather and uncertain footing on alpine trails.
“Summer through fall is definitely when we are called on most often,” said Amanda Crosby, the team’s president and longtime member. “In the six-month period between May and October we will usually receive 10 to 20 calls for assistance.”
In 2012, the Mountain Rescue Team was involved in 25 missions, and helped to rescue 20 people. Combined, team members trained for 1,080 hours, and spent 992 hours participating in active missions.
Like most other Search and Rescue units, Western’s rescue team comprises volunteers trained in emergency first aid, backcountry travel, and mountain safety. The team becomes involved in an operation after being contacted with a request for help by the Gunnison County Sheriff’s office.
“The story is that a professor went missing in the late 1960s, and the team evolved from the campus community’s desire to keep its members safe,” said Crosby. “Today, we have about 20 year-round members, most of whom are connected to Western either as students, staff, or alumni.”
Training for the team is extensive and includes both classroom education and field practice. Members gain experience inlarge-scale wilderness search, high angle rope rescue, low angle rope rescue,avalanche rescue, winter rescue, and wilderness education. Every five years the entire team goes through a recertification process conducted by the Mountain Rescue Association.
“We work closely with other search and rescue groups, the sheriff’s office, and other agencies,” said Crosby. “The expectation is that we are professionals capable of performing lifesaving activities in extreme environments.”
Several members of the Mountain Rescue team are also involved in Western’s Wilderness Pursuits programs, activities that encourage the development of outdoor skills, community involvement, and healthy lifestyles.
“So many of the people have come to Western for the outdoor opportunities that it only makes sense to have a club focused on making sure we all make it home safe,” said Crosby. “We all love being outside.”
Mountain Rescue team members are expected to pay club fees, but there is no cost associated with training. For more information about the team, or to learn about volunteering, contact the Mountain Rescue Team ator(970)943-2112.