Truckee rescue team ‘has your back’
The Truckee Regional Rescue Team helped pulled off a successful rescue July 11, retrieving an injured climber who was hanging 200 feet off the ground at Donner Summit.
“I felt like a proud dad,” said Truckee Firefighter Dave Fitcher, who helped put the team together five years ago. “All my team members just filled in the slots that needed to be filled in and just went to work.”
The climber was lead climbing the second pitch on a three-pitch route when he fell 70 feet down. Fichter said it’s likely that the protection gear he placed was loose and came undone, causing him to fall past his belayer.
While the climber did not hit the ground he still suffered multiple facial and arm lacerations, as well as injuries to his back.
When they arrived at the scene, Fitcher sent one of the more experienced climbers on the rescue team to rappel down from the top to reach the climber. Once there, he clipped the climber into a rescue litter and lowered him to the ground.
“It was a super technical rescue,” said Fitcher.
Cal Fire and the Nevada County Search and Rescue team was also on the ground to assist. From there the Longhorn Helicopter Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Fallon was able to extract and airlift the climber out. The entire rescue took around three hours and had to be carried out in the dark.
“It’s a great coordination with all of our neighbors,” he said. “That rescue on Donner Summit was a perfect example of that.”
Truckee Regional Rescue Team was put together five years ago when the department was approached by the California Highway Patrol, which was in need of assistance for rescue operations. Fitcher then comprised a team of firefighters from Truckee Fire, North Tahoe Fire, Northstar Fire and Squaw Valley Fire, all of whom had extensive outdoor experience.
“The people I pick for the team all have some sort of savvy technical experience outside the fire department,” said Fitcher. “All these guys are raft guides, climbers, backcountry skiers.”
Not only are they already equipped with knowledge of the backcountry, but team members go through extensive training to be able to carry out successful operations. One training course that is required to perform big wall rescues such as the one at Donner Summit is an intensive 40-hour high-angle rope course.
“One of my requirements is I want to see your experience level and I want to make sure you can hold it together when it’s real,” said Fitcher.
Outdoor activities such as rock climbing and backcountry skiing have become increasingly popular resulting in more accidents in the backcountry, Fitcher said. Since its creation, his team of specialists has been helping to perform more effective rescue operations that he said are desperately needed.
“We do all these things already for fun but we’re not just climbers and skiers. We’re all medics too. We want to make sure the public knows we’re here for you,” said Fichter. “If you truly need help we have this team in place that has your back.”
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2652.