The three wintering guys from Wilkins piled into a Hägg and headed to station to complete this year’s SAR (Search and Rescue) training with other wintering expeditioners from Casey. After learning the knots that we would be using (like the Italian hitch, overhand and figure 8 knots plus lots of others), we were trained to be able to abseil and ascend the same rope using a belay device called an ATC and prusiks (small loops of rope).
This did take a lot of concentration at first. You find yourself saying things like “Pulling on that rope won’t do anything, slide that rope up and stand in that loop and I'll go up, but if I pull on that rope I'll be sent to my doom”.
Once we had a great night’s sleep, we headed out to learn all about anchors that go into rock and snow and ice, of which the latter are both very abundant down here (who would have thought that). Then we were set tasks of attaching ropes to rock and snow/ice to control descents over varying gradients of multiple people and other gear like stretchers on the same ropes. If you don’t control the descent rate, it becomes a fall, which can become a splat on the bottom.
Suffice to say, we all completed our training and successfully descended all manner of surfaces. As we were completing our SAR training, we had a light bulb moment and discovered that whilst SAR means Search and Rescue, it also means Standing around Ropes and Staring at Rocks (looking for anchor points) which we seemed to do an awful lot of both! Thanks to the field training officers (Ian and Paula) for a great learning experience!
Sealy — Wilkins Mechanic