Who to Contact in an Emergency

Written by Rick Bost

October 11, 2010
image of an emergency tube
Drive-By Crag emergency tube

As climbers we put ourselves in a dangerous position. We rely on ourselves, our equipment, and our climbing partner each and every time we climb. We don’t expect bad things to happen, however sometime accidents happen. A few months ago our community experienced a tragedy at the Darkside.

The night of the accident I had a chance to talk with climbers that were at the cliff that day. Through our discussions, I felt pain of my friends, as we searched for the why.

That night everyone was shaken, but I asked questions looking for ways that the RRGCC could help. There is little that the RRGCC can do to prevent accidents. When I asked what could have been better, here is what they said:

  1. “We did not know who to call or what the phone number was
  2. We did not know what county we were in
  3. Even though we sent a runner out to meet the ambulance, they missed each other
  4. We did not know how to explain to the Rescue Squad where we were in terms that they understood
  5. The Rescue Squad did not know where the Darkside was . . . “

Fundamentally all those concerns are related to education. Education is something the RRGCC can help improve.

As climbers we name cliffs for things that make sense to us. The solar collector is sunny, roadside is next to the road etc the darkside is shaded from the sun. However these cliff and hollows had names years before climbers showed up. When climbers call for rescue it is unreasonable to expect search and rescue personnel to know locations in our terms. We have to explain our locations in term that are known to the locals that are coming to save our ass. The RRGCC can provide this information as well as phone numbers to climbers. The most effective place to provide this information is at the scene, at the cliff.

The biggest problem with instructions at the cliff is keeping the instructions dry yet accessible in the event of emergency. The RRGCC developed an idea for keeping emergency instructions at the cliff, using PVC tubes as storage (poop tubes). We shared this idea with Rick Weber. He implemented the idea soon several EMERGENCY INSTRUCTION tubes are installed at the Muir Valley. Rick has graciously provided labels for tubes that have been installed at the PMRP.

Now that we had a storage idea we needed to develop those instructions. For this we had to decide what information we needed to provide. Our decision was that the RRGCC should not provide medical instructions but should provide instructions to facilitate speedy arrival of medical rescue personnel to the parking lot. From the parking lot climbers must help the rescue personnel to the cliff. Here is the information that will be in the tubes.

The above should help address the first 3 concerns mentioned that night. For the fourth concern, we decided to ask Lee County what information they needed to provide the best response to climber accidents. Based on those discussions, the RRGCC developed and have provided the following information the search and rescue squad of Lee County:

  1. Written directions to all the parking lots in the PMRP
  2. A map with all the major crags and parking lots of the PMRP labeled and arrows showing the most reasonable approach to the parking lots and meeting place for the ambulance.
  3. GPS coordinates of all the major crags at the PMRP
  4. The copies of the guide book to provide additional information about the area.

Emergency Map
Lee County Driving Directions

During Rocktoberfest weekend the RRGCC installed 7 tubes in the southern region.

We ask just a few things of all the climbers of the Red River Gorge:

Making this all happen takes a ton of effort. Several people have worked on or provided input to this project.

Thank you to all:

Stephanie Meadows Kim Neilson Rick Weber
Ronnie Dickerson Paul Vidal Dave Scott
Ray Ellington Michelle Ellington Dave Pegg and Wolverine Publishing
JR Goodwin John Nowell Brent Perkins
Mike (Chicago) Aaron (Illinois) Hugh Loeffler

We are still looking for the why, something to make ourselves feel less exposed. We will probably never know exactly what happened. However consider being a little more reserved, check each other and be more attentive at the belay.
Try Hard. Have Fun. Take Care.


Rick Bost