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    Our History

    In August of 1994 the Western Region Training Committee (WRTC) met at the annual meeting of the Western Region of the National Speleological Society (NSS). During the meeting Cindy Heazlit requested training in self rescue techniques from Bill Maher. Bill was the regional coordinator for the Western Region of the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC). Knowing that Heazlit had been a proponent of self rescue for years, Bill's response to her was "go for it!". Heazlit ran around the meeting trying to find interested people. Five other cavers were interested: Roger Mortimer, Bart Rowlett, Lynn Fielding, Marianne Russo, and Bill Frantz. The self rescue committee was born.

    The winter of 1994-95 was spent trying to figure out what was needed in a self rescue course. The group spent several Saturdays meeting and arguing in the basement of Roger Mortimer's church. In addition, Phil Whitfield provided notes from the British Columbia cave rescue classes. The group came up with several items that needed to be taught in the "course." In June of 1995 Cindy Heazlit made arrangements for a pilot course to be taught to members of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the NSS. After much painful negotiation, Heazlit convinced the rangers at Pinnacles National Monument that the group should be allowed to have the course in their park. The course was a disaster. There was far too much material to be taught in a weekend, the group didn't know what they were doing, and people didn't want to spend an entire weekend doing course work when there wasn't any caving involved. It was a rather brutal learning experience.

    Heazlit spent a lot of lunch hours after that trying to figure out what would work. In the end, she came up with a set of 7 "modules" for self rescue. Each module could be taught in less than a day. That way cavers would be more likely to come to the training. In the summer of 1995 Heazlit presented the modules and their contents to the group. They took off with it! Roger Mortimer created the medical module. Heazlit recruited Mark Fritzke to assist the group with his knowledge of unstable rock zones (URZs). Bill Frantz and Cindy Heazlit developed the introductory text, the Horizontal Movement module, and the Single Person Vertical modules. Heazlit wrote the drafts for the Caver Basics, the Hauling and Lowering module, and the Caver Kit. By November of 1995 the group finally had something that might work. They sent their (very) rough drafts out for review. Bill Frantz had been appointed to the NCRC Self Rescue Goals committee. The group sent their drafts to the NCRC. At Bill's request, the group also came up with a list of self rescue goals for the NCRC.

    In April of 1996 the group taught their first courses from the modules. Marianne Russo made arrangements to pilot test the Horizontal Movement module and the Medical module with the Diablo and Mother Lode grottos. Roger Mortimer taught the medical module, and Bill Frantz and Cindy Heazlit taught the Horizontal module. After spending all day learning, the class went into a cave to put the principles into practice. It turned out to be a roaring success, with a lot of great feedback from the cavers. It worked!!! In August of 1996 Heazlit presented the results to the NCRC at the NSS convention in Salida, Colorado. She also presented the results to the rescue section. While at the section meeting, Chuck Hemple and Cindy Heazlit came up with several "levels of self rescue". John Gookin later wrote these up as part of his article on self rescue for the NSS News. Heazlit also did a paper on a couple of the techniques for the vertical section, and presented it with Bill Frantz. In September Heazlit did a talk at the Western Region meeting, and gave instruction to cavers on building a stretcher out of rope. In October Roger Mortimer and Cindy Heazlit taught as instructor specialists for the Regional NCRC training. Bill Maher kindly allowed the group to add self rescue topics to the standard NCRC curriculum. Roger taught a medical section, while Cindy added in sections on horizontal transport, rigging systems, unstable rock zones, and cave packs. The students came away with a knowledge of both SAR and self rescue techniques.

    The year of 1997 was spent quietly. Roger Mortimer and Cindy Heazlit arranged for several "on the rocks" sessions and "cave" sessions to develop more techniques. Marianne Russo acted as the group's representative at the International Congress of Speleology. Bart Rowlett and Roger Mortimer did a demonstration on pick-offs at the October regional, and Mark Fritzke presented his Unstable Rock Zone module. In November, Heazlit did all the arrangements for a class to be taught to the San Francisco Bay Chapter. She taught the Haul/Lower module that she had developed and written. It was well received by the students. Bart Rowlett took over as acting chair for the self rescue committee.

    It is amazing how much work can be accomplished by only seven people! The group came a long way in the last few years. All of these people were also part of the WRTC (the parent organization), and some were working on its bid for the NCRC national seminar in 1999. Cindy Heazlit had been leading several trips up to Lava Beds NM, assisted by Roger Mortimer and Lynn Fielding. This was in preparation for the bid for the NCRC seminar. It became obvious that there was just too much work to be done, by too few people. It was decided to put the self rescue work on hold in order to fulfill the obligations to the NCRC. Heazlit protested that a current work shouldn't be left to take on a new one. Lynn Fielding (who was chair of the WRTC, NCRC 1999, and Western Region) suggested that Cindy start a separate group if she wanted to keep the self rescue work going. This was discussed among the leadership of the self rescue committee, the NCRC 1999 committee, the WRTC, and the regional NCRC. In the end, the members decided that it would be a good idea to have a separate group from the WRTC. It would help to distribute the effort, and keep this important work going. It would also help to alleviate some confusion - people kept getting the WRTC work mixed up with the self rescue committee work, and vice versa. The Self Rescue Group was born as a separate entity. It now continues the vital work of developing and teaching self rescue techniques.


Pages created June 1998 - Last update November 1998
Copyright ©1998 Cindy Heazlit for The Self Rescue Group
Designed and maintained by Cindy Heazlit