On Saturday March 20, KISAR members climbed Pyramid Mountain to the upper Jibber Bowl and conducted snow stability tests including hand hardness assessments and conducting extended column tests (ECTs). New snow had fallen overnight and during the day but most of the snowpack was a series of alternating layers of pencil- or knife-hardness ice lenses with fist-hardness, poorly consolidated, old round-grain snow (sugar) between. Pits gave varying results depending on general wind exposure at the location.
We were hoping to cover safe avalanche terrain travel, avalanche awareness, and snowpack stability assessment this month. The snowpack is currently rock solid so not very interesting to do stability tests on, but we will tentatively stick to the topic and hope for an (unlikely) change in the weather patterns.
Please find the time to watch all 5 parts of this American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) lecture on YouTube, especially if you have limited avalanche training. Sadly it’s just a video camera recording a public event, so the video and audio quality are rather poor, but it is still the most comprehensive and professional treatment of the topic I can locate online that is free.
We will discuss next Saturday’s actual training at the Wednesday March 17 KISAR general meeting at Bayside at 7 PM. Please consider watching the lecture as Wednesday’s training topic that would otherwise normally follow the meeting. We will have a short presentation to underscore some of the main points made in the lecture and present local resources to help in avalanche decision making.
The wearing of masks and all the current COVID safety protocols will be observed. Community transmission is low, and many have already received some part of their vaccination regimen. But out of respect for the un- or partially-vaccinated in our community, we will stay vigilant.
On Saturday Feb 20, KISAR members met at the Pyramid Pass parking area to conduct a field exercise with avalanche transceivers. We ran through a number of demonstrations of how modern transceivers interpret flux lines and how a buried beacon’s physical orientation affects the searcher’s path to the victim. We practiced multiple burial scenarios, demonstrating the transceiver’s mark function. Then we simulated an avalanche accident scene with 2 buried transceivers and had all members practice going through the signal search, coarse search, and fine search for each victim. We practiced probing, and discussed effective digging technique for various burial depths, for a either single rescuer or a group of rescuers. We also performed a probe line demonstration.
KISAR will hold its general membership meeting Thursday February 18 at 7 PM at Bayside Fire Hall.
This will be our first in-person meeting since before the spike in COVID cases in the fall. With the last official positive test for COVID-19 occurring on Feb 12 and at that time there were only 4 active cases in the community, we feel it can be safe for us to meet in person observing all appropriate COVID safety measures. Please wear a good-fitting mask, socially distance, etc.
Following the general membership meeting, Philip will present a slideshow and lecture on avalanche transceiver theory and use that will lay the groundwork for the scheduled outdoor avalanche transceiver training on Saturday, Feb 20.
Last spring when COVID first emerged I created a geocaching course out at Termination Point for our April training as a safe way for members to do something SAR-adjacent when we could not get together for a normal training. I have obtained workers comp insurance again for KISAR members from now until December 20 to repeat this training. If anyone did not have an opportunity in the spring to run the course, or if you did it in the spring and would like to do it again, this will serve as our December training topic.
The purpose of this training is to practice navigation with the Gaia GPS app (https://www.gaiagps.com/ or another gps phone app of your choice). Below I will provide the latitude and longitude for 11 Navy Seal course orienteering points. Some reside in parts of the Termination Point forest that very few people visit.
At each of the 11 locations you will find a small Tyvek sign with “KISAR” in blue permanent marker, below which there will be either a letter or number (see the attached example; the # will be replaced with an alpha-numeric character). You will need to record this letter or number from each location. After locating all 11 symbols, arrange them to form a common phrase (yes, it is a puzzle, but this shouldn’t be too challenging). After you complete these tasks let me know directly via an email (don’t reply to kisar emails which go to everyone). Every KISAR member who completes this training by December 20 wins a sew-on KISAR patch (yay, prizes!).
On this course you may encounter swamps, devil’s club and salmonberry patches, dense forest and windfall depending on how you navigate. I know the area well and it took me over 2.5 hours and I traveled 6 miles to complete it. You should assume it will take you longer, so do NOT wait until the afternoon to get started. I HIGHLY recommend you record your track in Gaia because it forces your phone to update your location constantly. If you don’t record, your phone may take a long time to acquire your location again in the dense trees. If you need to bone up on your Gaia GPS app skills, this is a short but very comprehensive tutorial: https://youtu.be/KhZlQuvX-Uc.
In order to enter the required waypoints, you will need to be able to do is create a new waypoint, and then change the latitude and longitude values to move that waypoint to the correct location. You can enter these at home before heading out. Here are the 11 geocache locations:
Please note that the free version of Gaia does not offer the use of cached maps for offline use, and part of this course does not have cell coverage. Keep that in mind before you head out. Gaia is an excellent app and essential for the work we do. Consider getting the basic paid version. I am working on getting a KISAR team discount through Gaia.
Treat this like a real training and bring a well-provisioned pack with communication resources like an inReach (at least half the course has no cell coverage) and a phone battery backup, food & water, clothing, first aid & safety gear, and maybe even a light shelter and stove. Microspikes (or similar) are suggested and I highly recommend trekking poles. There could be bears around so take the normal precautions like make noise and carry bear spray. For safety reasons I recommend doing this in pairs so if there is someone you feel safe going with (you have been in quarantine with them) proceed as normal. If you go with another person that you have not been in quarantine with, please drive out in separate cars and travel together but stay appropriately physically distanced during the day. If someone really wants to do this training but can’t find a partner, send Philip an email and I would be happy to tag along. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email Philip.
Please let the KISAR board of directors know that you are headed out and send us another email after you return so we know who is out there. Have fun and be safe!
KISAR members met at the Pyramid Mountain parking area at 10 am and hiked up to top of Jibber Bowl at about 1500’. They assembled the SKED litter and then belayed a simulated patient down with a harness-mounted belay device and occasionally off to alder anchors. The training started in the alpine on steeper ground where the braking was more of a challenge. A USCG helicopter visited the training area and KISAR members practiced vectoring the aircraft to their location via commands over radios.
Lydia Cullum joined KISAR in September of 2018. Since that time, she became a valued and integral part of our team and KISAR family. At every stage in her involvement with KISAR, her enthusiastic hunger for developing new skill sets, acquiring knowledge, and commitment to public service were character traits we all should aspire to replicate. Her intelligence, athleticism, easy-going personality, and unerring generosity and humanity will be deeply missed by her teammates. It is hard to imagine a bigger blow to our organization than her passing. She was, simply put, a perfect fit for KISAR. We will miss her in her roles as a student, a team member, a teacher, and as a friend.
Below is a short narrative outlining Lydia’s involvement with KISAR. This is by no means an exhaustive accounting of the myriad of ways she made KISAR more effective, more relevant, and us as her friends better people.
In November of 2018 Lydia joined us in her first training which was a simulated call out for a hiker had fallen off a cliff in Fort Abercrombie. Lydia and an another KISAR member formed a hasty team to travel to the site and assess the situation. Other members assembled gear at Bayside Fire Hall that might be useful. After the subject was located the hasty team radioed the scene information so other KISAR members could bring the necessary gear to their location. KISAR performed a high-angle lift and the patient was packaged and transported to the trail head.
The following April Lydia participated a coordinated mountain safety training at the 4th of July hut with the US Coast Guard. KISAR members went out to the CG hangar to look over gear and discuss helicopter operations. She flew up to the hut in an H-65 and was lowered by basket to the training area. KISAR used a roll-up Sked to package a CG rescue dummy and practiced doing litter raises. After the helo operations, Blaine Smith from the Alaska Avalanche School gave KISAR a class in various aspects of mountain safety including crampon and ice ax technique as well as rigging snow anchors.
In April Lydia enjoyed a day of rock climbing in Anton Larsen Bay with the KISAR community.
In January of 2020 Lydia joined our KISAR board of directors and increased her involvement with the organization. And just in time; KISAR had a busy summer despite COVID including a July response to lost hikers on Pyramid Mountain.
She helped on the Woody Island lost kayaker call out and performed the first documented KISAR piggyback rescue.
We were extremely lucky to be able to draw on her extensive medical knowledge as a emergency medicine professional when she led response this past July on Kashevaroff Mtn.
We all miss her dearly and are grateful for the time we had with her in our search and rescue family.
At 19:23 on July 27 the Alaska State Troopers were alerted to reports of an adult female who had rolled an ATV on Kashevaroff Mountain and sustained injuries. KISAR was contacted and a response initiated. KISAR member Nick Szabo began contacting KISAR members to determine availability. KISAR member Lydia Cullum arrived at Bayside Fire Hall and received additional information from the Emergency Department that the patient had altered mental status due to head trauma and possibly multiple orthopedic injuries. At 20:07 Cullum volunteered to go ahead of the rest of the KISAR group as a hasty team to provide medical assistance. In route to Kashevaroff, Cullum was contacted by Trooper Boyle who was on scene and was given details of the patient’s condition. At 20:35 Cullum was at the trailhead and met Trooper Walsh and Women’s Bay Fire volunteers that offered a “go bag” of medical supplies. Trooper Walsh provided ATV transportation to the site of the ATV rollover (57.6883°, -152.5828°). At 20:48 Cullum arrived on scene. An adult female was found lying on her left side under an emergency blanket. A quick trauma assessment was completed identifying multiple possible injuries. The patient was placed in a c-collar, a splint was placed on the patient’s right hand, and the patient was kept in the position of comfort on her left side. A helicopter extraction was determined to be the best option given the possible extent of the patient’s injuries and the level of discomfort she was in. Trooper Boyle initiated contacting the Coast Guard at 21:03. The rest of the KISAR team including Doug Dorner, Paul VanDyke, Steven Wielebski, Michael Gibbs, Kyle Setta, Shea Long, and Chris Bruno arrived at 21:10. Maintaining c-spine precautions the KISAR team lifted the patient into the KISAR Stokes basket. KISAR coordinated with the Coast Guard via radio communications to determine the best method of extracting the patient. KISAR members carried the patient in the stokes basket to a location 60 feet below the accident where the helicopter could partially land. The KISAR team loaded the patient directly into the helicopter at the direction of the CG rescue swimmer. The KISAR team hiked out with the patient’s family and Alaska State Troopers. All members were off the mountain at 23:18.
A young man and woman departed Mission Beach in kayaks on July 8 headed for Trident Basin and Crooked Island but were blown off course in the Woody Island Channel and made landfall on Woody Island near Icehouse Point instead. They had no means of communication with them and carried no supplies. They were reported overdue on the evening of July 8. The Alaska State Troopers contacted KISAR and a callout to members was initiated by KISAR member Nick Szabo. KISAR members responding were Ryan Cross, Lydia Cullum, Doug Dorner, Shae Long, Mike Sirofchuck, Philip Tschersich, Sharon and Steve Wielebski. Cross secured a skiff from KISAR member John Sikes and along with a Harbor Master’s skiff met the KISAR team at the float plane dock in Trident Basin at 10:00. USCG helicopters had been searching Crooked Island since around 08:30 and later located 2 abandoned kayaks on Woody Island just north of Icehouse Point. The KISAR team was directed to proceed to Woody Island. Just prior to KISAR’s, arrival a USCG helicopter spotted the 2 missing individuals coming out of the forest behind the Kodiak Baptist Mission property at Icehouse Point. Baptist Mission employees had skiffed over that morning, drawn by the helicopter activity at their property, and met the 2 missing kayakers. KISAR and the Alaska State Troopers arrived at the scene and KISAR offered warm clothing and a shuttle to the larger AST vessel. KISAR returned to Trident Basin and the effort was demobilized by 11:00.
KISAR member Steve Wielebski received a call Friday, July 3 at 11:47 from US Coast Guard, Sector Anchorage. Sector Anchorage explained that the Coast Guard would like assistance from KISAR on a ground search for a missing man from the Dungeness crab F/V Pacific Dynasty. Two men and a dog had left the fishing vessel on Thursday afternoon in an inflatable raft to go beachcombing on Tugidak Island. They were last seen by the vessel’s Captain late Thursday evening where it appeared to him they were getting into the raft to leave the island to come back to the boat. They never arrived. The captain of the F/V Pacific Dynasty had been able to contact another fishing vessel before daybreak to assist in the search for the missing men at dawn. They located one man, found deceased on the beach and partially buried in the sand, and retrieved the dog alive.
Wielebski contacted KISAR member Nick Szabo at 12:00 noon to help with the call out for available KISAR members. Around 14:00 KISAR member Shea Long and Wielebski arrived at Air Station Kodiak with 24-hour packs. KISAR had VHF radios and sat phone for comms. KISAR members were issued flight suits, helmets, life vests and left at approximately 14:45 for the flight to Tugidak in an H-60.
The CG helo dropped Wielebski and Long off by landing on the beach near the inflatable raft that was found about a mile east of where the Captain last saw the men alive. The Captain had asked the CG to search west of where the raft was located. Wielebski and Long found some foot tracks and dog tracks that looked as if they were heading in the direction of an old building about a mile away so the KISAR team searched the building and looped back to the inflatable. Wielebski and Long then headed west along the beach for at least a mile (based on a recorded track in Gaia) when they were contacted by the helicopter crew that the CG was ready to pick KISAR up for the flight back to Kodiak. Wielebski and Long arrived back at the CG base at approximately 19:00 and the search was suspended.