Rescue Pickoffs Pt 1 – Suspended or Not Suspended?

Written By: Lance Piatt

Pickoff Overview

An unsupported pickoff is rescuing a climber or hiker from a variety of angles. More injuries and deaths occur on slopes that are less than vertical and often require as many technicians as a more high profile vertical rescue.

When performing a pickoff rescue, the rescuer is often “powered” by the system, which reduces many of the hazards present in an un-powered rescue. This makes pickoff rescues an attractive option for technical level rope rescuers.

Rig the system above and slightly to the side of the victim to avoid knocking debris onto the victim. Rig a fixed rappel line for a rappel operation or rig a two tensioned-rope system for a team based operation. The belay system must be capable of supporting a two-person load.

Attach the rescuer to both system lines. The rescuer will carry a pickoff strap and victim harness. Clip the pickoff strap into line one on the rappel device. Do not attach the pickoff strap directly to the rescuer harness. If the patient has no head protection, take a helmet.

Considerations in performing a pickoff of any kind and in any terrain

  1. Gear selection that meets the requirements of the rescue
  2. Know as “top of mind” the necessary knots and hitches required
  3. Appropriate rigging skill for the environment being worked in
  4. Communication skills
  5. Know the equipment and appropriate functions of the equipment
  6. Know the principles of descending, ascending, tie-offs, change-over and other skill pertaining to vertically accessing the patient
  7. Systems, be they high angle lowering systems, raising system, belay systems ect… must be understood and within the motor memory of the technician
  8. Personal skills such as “climber rescue”is a must
  9. Mechanical advantage, hauling, safety checks and operation of all system are all tools required

Selection and Approach 

Decisions are made on observable facts/clues and  non-observable facts/clues.  We know only what we know and don’t know what we don’t.  Facts and conjecture.  Experience plays well in the pickoff arena.

  • Suspended or not?
  • Clinging?  Though not suspended they will be soon.
  • Injured or not? If so, how bad?
  • Conscious or unconscious?  Somewhere in between?
  • Hazards?  What are they?
  • Weather or contaminants?
  • One subject or more?  How many?

Peace on your Days



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