Maintaining MRA Accreditation: Snow and Ice

By Joe Keyser

The CoCoSAR Mountain Rescue Group (MRG) participated in the annual Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) reaccreditation at June Mountain Ski Resort in the town of June Lake on March 2. (The MRA requires reaccreditation in one of three core skills every year; this year it was snow and ice rescue.)

Sixteen CoCoSAR team members gathered at the resort with the goal of maintaining CoCoSAR's MRA certification. They were among more than 20 teams from all over the California region seeking reaccreditation. 

CoCoSAR has been training since November on Mt. Diablo and at Donner Pass in order to perfect skills in the two disciplines the team was required to demonstrate at June Lake: avalanche rescue and technical snow and ice rescue systems. To test the team's ability with technical snow and ice rescue systems, two observers accompanied the team up a 35- to 40-degree snow slope to a GPS location. At this time, the observers designated a random team member as the subject to be lowered about 500 feet down to a road. The team quickly assessed snow conditions, built anchors (in terrible snow), assembled main and belay systems, and assessed and packaged the patient and lowered him down the slope.

Next the team was required to locate a buried avalanche beacon in a simulated avalanche area in 20 minutes or less. It took the team about 20 minutes to prove conclusively, using transceivers and a grid search, that there was no beacon buried in the assigned area. After event organizers did a quick huddle, they realized CoCoSAR's beacon was buried in a different avalanche zone. Once directed to the right avalanche zone, the team found its beacon (and a second buried for another team) in half the required time limit.

The two proctors assigned by the MRA to observe the team came away very impressed by the teamwork, knowledge, and skills displayed by CoCoSAR team members. The proctors passed the team on both stations. Overall the event was an excellent opportunity for the team to show off its technical rescue skills, network with other SAR teams from around the state, and certify its standing as one of the premier search and rescue teams in California.

Pictures courtesy of Karen Najarian: