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CMC / Denver Group


While the self-rescue course and this manual may help you increase your skill level, there is no substitute for formal instruction from a certified professional instructor.  The skills and techniques involved in self-rescue vary from simple to extremely complicated and risky, and you should practice and be thoroughly familiar with the techniques before you attempt to apply them. 
Also, this course is not a substitute for the skills and resources of an accredited rescue organization.  If you find yourself in a predicament, you should do as much as you can to rescue yourself without making your situation worse.  You will need to use good judgment to determine when to call for outside help and when to self-rescue.
This manual covers much more material than you will be exposed to in the self-rescue course.  The purpose of that is to demonstrate that we will only be scratching the surface of basic self-rescue skills.

What do we mean by climbing self-rescue?

Climbing self-rescue refers to using skills and techniques to assist or extract ourselves or a climbing partner from a difficult situation in technical climbing terrain using little or no outside help and only the gear we would normally climb with.

Completion of this course does not certify your ability as a rescuer.

It needs to be stressed that this is a seminar.  This is not a course that gives you a graduation certificate upon completion.  We will not be certifying your proficiency.  Proficiency only comes with a lot of time spent practicing.  Search and rescue organizations require their members to attend a certain number of training sessions every month to maintain their accreditation, because they know that skills erode when they aren’t used.
We will show you some techniques and give you some hands on experience, but it is up to you to put in the practice time necessary to become proficient with the techniques.  You could possibly do more harm than good if you attempt to use some of these skills without having mastered them first. 

What to expect from the course.

This course will attempt to teach you some basic skills and techniques that you can apply in a variety of rescue situations.  We use the “Baseline” model of self-rescue instruction.  The baseline model involves transitioning the climbing rope from various belay methods to a common configuration, before setting up a rescue system.  The advantage of this method is that when you teach students how to set up a rescue system you are starting from one common configuration.  This allows you to teach only one method to set up each rescue system instead of several methods for each rescue system, one method for every belay technique.  In addition we will talk about prevention of accidents and demonstrate some techniques that will help with accident prevention and safer climbing.
This is not a BMS class or a Trad Lead School class.  You are expected to come to the self-rescue sessions with rope skills, climbing skills, and anchor building skills.  There is quite a bit of material to cover in this class, and it is fast paced, so there isn’t time for remedial instruction.  In fact, we will assign some home work for the students to learn some new knots and become familiar with some new techniques before they come to class.
Also, this is not a first aid class.  First aid skills can be important in a self-rescue situation, and may determine the course of action, but that is beyond to scope of this course.

Why do we need self-rescue skills?

As instructors and trip leaders we are frequently taking inexperienced or less experienced climbers into technical terrain, and if you go there often  enough, eventually something may go wrong.  We are also exposing students to skills that they have never seen before.  Things can go wrong and it may be something relatively benign.  Such as:

The situation could be more serious.  Such as:

If you read the reports in Accidents in North American Mountaineering you will see many instances of large scale rescue situations.  These can be very expensive, endanger many more people, take a long time to organize, and take even longer to reach the scene of the accident.  Many times these rescue operations can be avoided if the climbing party had some self-rescue skills.  Even when an outside help is necessary, critical time can be saved when the climbing party is able to perform some degree of self-rescue.  If an injured climber can be moved away from the vertical terrain before help arrives, it can make evacuation easier.