Wednesday, February 18, 2015

BAMRU Finds Snow - January Winter Training

by Tom Grossman

As a search and rescue team, BAMRU is highly effective at searching the wilderness to find people who want to get home to their loved ones. It turns out that BAMRU is also adept at searching the wilderness to find snow that wants us to play in it. Thanks to the diligent efforts of our Training Team, BAMRU had a productive snow training in Donner Pass area.  
Our Trainees and experienced members practiced the fundamentals of winter mountaineering. Saturday morning we covered crampon travel on snow and ice, including short stretches of front-pointing with a mountain axe.  
Participants also practiced ice axe self-arrest, covering all eight variations plus one oh-BLEEP-I-don’t-have-an-axe-and-I’m-falling-I-need-to-stop-NOW technique, with varying degrees of gracefulness.  
After lunch, we practiced the basics of avalanche rescue, starting with a review of the many different avy beacons now available, then rotating through three stations. First, teams practiced running an avalanche probe line, with particular attention to posting a lookout and keeping an escape round in mind. Second, teams worked on “strategic shoveling” so that a buried avalanche victim can be accessed as quickly as possible. Third, teams worked on beacon search, including situations with more than victim.  
As day turned to dusk, participants worked on starting a survival fire on snow. (Watch for future blog posts on this topic!) 
On Sunday, we spent the morning rotating through three stations. The first was use of pickets, focusing on the T-slot technique that was appropriate for the soft snow conditions. The second stations covered bollards and dead men. The third station practiced snow climbing belays, including the classic hip belay, the venerable boot-axe belay, and also the stand-axe belay, the sit-axe belay which was probably the most popular and stable.  
At lunch we broke stuff. We used a load cell to test snow anchors to failure.  
A boy and his toy
A weakly placed t-slot picket with no backfill failed at around 2.5kN, as did a well-placed snow fluke (technically the fluke never failed, it just started moving towards another zip code under the snowpack).  A well-placed t-slot picket held until the haul-system prusik started to melt at 8kN.   
Picket didn't pull, but prusik slipped at 8kN
The incredibly low-tech stuff-sack stuffed with snow deadman held to at least 7kN (we stopped there to avoid trashing another prusik).  
8kN pull on a bag of snow...
Sunday afternoon was Pick-A-Station. Participants could wander to snow belays (which expanded to multi-pitch snow climbing so folks could practice belays “in context”)snow anchorsand ice axe self-arrest, in order to practice, discuss, experiment, and develop muscle memory. We did self-arrest testing and 8 trainees earned this coveted and hard to get sign-off by successful demonstrating all 9 variations of ice-axe self-arrest.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

BAMRU wins Sheriff's Office Volunteer Group of the Year Award

BAMRU is proud to be associated with the San Mateo County's Sheriff's Office. We are just one of the many volunteer groups that work under the auspices of the Office of Emergency Services. Every year the Sheriff's Office graciously throws a party to honor all its volunteer members. We get treated to a lovely dinner, a performance by the honor guard and awards are passed out to especially notable individuals and volunteer groups.

At this year's event, Sheriff Monk, Sgt Gilletti, and Chris Co (just some of the fine individuals we work with) bestowed upon BAMRU the inaugural San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Volunteer Group of the Year Award for 2014. This recognition is a reflection of our dedication and effort in contributing 16,000+ hours of service this past year, strengthening numerous relationship with the utmost professionalism, thoughtfulness, and self awareness as well as our willingness to reach deep into harms way to help those in need.
The award was a complete surprise to all of us and we are honored to be the first team to receive it.

The plaque will be on permanent display at the Sheriff's Office after a brief tour.