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Wild Skills Wilderness Rescue Camp at Crystal Mountain

Under rare sunny skies from November 1st-3rd, SheJumps held a Wilderness Rescue Camp in Washington structured for young participants who had previously attended a Wild Skills event.

This particular camp was unique. SheJumps collaborated along with Crystal Mountain’s Ski Patrol during their OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care) training course they hold each year in preparation for the upcoming winter. Using the Crystal Mountain Fire Department building as a base of operations, the girls were able to learn a diverse range of wilderness first aid and rescue skills while working alongside the patrollers.

On Friday afternoon Wild Skills Coordinator Steph Durbin taught the campers radio communication, which would later become essential in the rescue scenarios. With volunteers Jennifer Hrivnak and Faith Meuller, the girls also reviewed basic first aid and anatomy. “This was so that they could gain some familiarization with the body parts such as the femur and radius,” said Durbin. “That way, they can identify the patient’s injured area.”

The next day would be go time.

Well, the next day was absolute chaos. A chairlift collapsed, leaving over thirty passengers, including SheJumps members, scattered around the mountain with various degrees of injury. Luckily, it was a pretend mass-casualty scenario! While nobody was actually hurt, the patrol team at Crystal Mountain sure had their rescue work cut out.

With a prize incentive for the best team of victims, one of the younger girls with an open tibia/fibula fracture put on an impressive performance and was even able to fake cry. It was no question that her team won best acting skills, which came with coveted Crystal Mountain avalanche dog shirts for the whole team.

The mass casualty incident was in rotation with four different stations including patient assessment, trauma and transport as well as communications and emergencies. The SheJumps volunteers and patrollers became mentors to the SheJumps participants as they learned these new mountain rescue skills. “After the day’s events, I walked by the office area and saw Counselor Heidi with a fake broken arm being treated by SheJumps participant Taylor,” recalled Wild Skills Director, Christy Pelland. Taylor had asked for more practice learning how to properly treat and sling a broken arm. “There are moments it feels like our Wild Skills program is working - that was definitely one of them.”

On the final morning, the ski patrollers ran a chairlift evacuation scenario along with the help of SheJumps participants. Said Durbin, “It gave the kids a chance to understand what a patroller does, as well as participate in the rescue and get belayed off the chairlift themselves.” Each young girl was paired with two patrollers to help them safely belay down.

For the last scenario of the camp, it was time for all the training to come together in an overdue hiker incident. “First, each group had to find their patient in the woods. Then they were to radio back to the camp, perform a patient assessment and administer basic first aid,” said Durbin. The scenario was too easy for the girls, who had all absorbed a monumental amount of information in the past few days.

Pelland and Durbin observed each group from a distance, impressed with their rescue responses. According to Durbin, “They were doing so well, we needed to throw them a curveball.” They signaled by radio a report of an incoming storm from the south with high winds, cold temperatures and a mix of rain and snow. Using their compass, the campers then had to create shelters to keep the patient warm and protected from the elements. Still, it was not challenging enough.

“We had to make it even more difficult, so we radioed in that the trail was washed out and the only way to get their patient out was through a helicopter evacuation,” said Durbin. “Now, they had to get their patient safety packaged together for an airlift.”

Every single group was successful in thinking on their toes. “They rocked it,” said Durbin. “They took everything they learned and put it all together for this scenario. The kids and patrollers both gained a lot from the weekend.”

“This event had me smiling for days after!” added Pelland. “The best part is they were learning so much more throughout even with the smallest facets of camp - personal responsibility, leadership, autonomy, risk management, situational awareness - things you don't think about when you're 10. We laughed hard, played games and had a ton of fun all while learning vital outdoor skills that easily apply to any area of your life.”

SheJumps would like to give a special thank you to:

  • Crystal Mountain Volunteer Patrol Director, Pete Schwartz, for his willingness to work with us to make this special event happen.

  • Ski Patroller, Lisa Poncelet, for championing our cause at every turn.

  • Crystal Mountain Pro Patrol Director, Peter Dale, for his support along the way.

  • Crystal Mountain Fire Department Chief, Paul Sowers, for letting us take over his station.

  • Former Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol Director, Kim Kircher, for coming up with the idea!

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