Day 1 2016 National Cave Rescue Commission training in Mentone, Alabama

Written By: Lance Piatt

Knot testing is always a nerve-wracking experience.
Knot testing is always a nerve-wracking experience.

Day One: If performing cave rescues is hard, training for them is surely just about as difficult. Join me and fellow VRS-Vertical Rescue Solutions instructor and Alpine Rescue Team member Martin Barnett as we make our way through 8 challenging days of some of the best training on the planet. Martin, relatively new to caving and cave rescue, will be taking his level one training. As for myself, I took my level one National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) training two years ago in Divide, Colorado, so the first day for level two was mostly a refresher and a chance to hone the skills we learned previously.
First off was our entrance exam. If you can’t remember how to perform all the skills that you were required to demonstrate for level one, you can’t move forward into level two. We were tested on Single Rope Technique (SRT) ascending, descending and changeovers. In terms of knots, we tied a double fisherman’s, figure 8 on a bight, figure eights follow through, water knot, prusik hitch, Munter hitch, clove hitch, trucker’s hitch and butterfly.

Then we moved on to practicing fixed brake lowers with a brake rack, and Munter belays. We had to construct and operate a 1:1 mechanical advantage with progress capture, followed by a piggybacked 2:1 with progress capture, and lastly, an inline 3:1 with progress capture. That was all completed before lunch.

Doing our best to avoid death by Powerpoint at 9:30 in the evening.
Doing our best to avoid death by Powerpoint at 9:30 in the evening.

After lunch, we headed out to the local poison ivy covered cliffs for some high angle work with litters. We did several iterations of lowers and raises with our small group of 8. To cap of the field portion, we completed a lowering and raising of a subject using only non-verbal communication (hand signals). At long last that crane signaling class I took back in the 20th century paid off, and we completed the 40 foot lowering and raise in sixteen minutes without speaking a single word. Good fun.


After dinner, we moved on to medical considerations for cave rescue. If I had one critique of the day, it would be that you should never follow dinner after a grueling day of testing and fieldwork by an apres-dinner powerpoint on medical considerations. After some work getting re-acquainted with running communication wire and using the Vietnam era field phones, we called it a day. Fifteen hours of cave rescue training under our belts, and there’s still seven more days to go. Stay tuned for Day 2. It’s gonna be a long week, methinks.


Tom Wood

Training Manager, PMI’s Vertical Rescue Solutions



Cell: 303-829-4468

Office: 303-800-1708 EXT 1451


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