These trainings are typically forty-five minutes to an hour long; they are conducted in a classroom setting before our business meetings each month so that team members can gain a deeper understanding of the systems we use before using them in the field. These trainings might be rigging techniques for doing this rigging faster, safer, and better. They also might be a medical refresher on a specific area of wilderness medicine. Trainings also might include search tactics, lost person behavior, or other search techniques.
Our summer 2-day trainings happen in Baxter State Park; we are the on-duty SAR team for the park the second weekend of every month. This means we have at least one hasty team that is ready to respond to any call within thirty minutes. This gives us a typical call-to-trailhead time of less than an hour. We also require backcountry navigation and routefinding skills of our members; this means developing map-and-compass and GPS skills.
During the winter, the team typically gets together for about one day every month to practice climbing and rescue skills. These trainings focus more on winter preparedness and climbing skills and less on rigging. Twice a year, we head to Baxter State Park to train on the upper mountain of Katahdin. These training sessions are typically two to four days long; this duration allows us to cover topics such as avalanche danger, winter clothing systems, cramponing techniques, snowshoe usage, and winter survival in the exposed environment that we operate in during the winter. We practice reading snowpack conditions, identifying the best choices for winter route finding, and winter survival techniques. We also cover ice climbing and rope management in the winter; two important topics for any winter moderate to high angle rescue. The Katahdin winter weekends are some of the longest training sessions we do as a team; they really focus on building competency in the larger mountain environment that Katahdin has to offer.
Other winter trainings also bring the team together to practice these important skills. We typically spend these additional winter trainings focusing on one particular skill; backcountry ski touring, ice and mixed climbing, steep-angle snow climbing, rescue rigging in the winter environment, etc. are just some examples. Our normal monthly trainings in the winter might consist of meeting up for a day at a crag just to work on ice climbing without the rescue context so that newer team members get a chance to learn and practice the basic mountaineering skills that form the foundation for rescue work. These trainings are essential to build the comfort level of newer team members so that the next year they may be able to participate on winter callouts more fully.