Secret Life of a Search and Rescue Volunteer
When someone goes missing on a frozen mountaintop or in a wildfire, my team heads out to help when no one else can — even if all we can do is bring back their bodies.
Illustrations by Matt Chinworth | Edited by Lilly Dancyger
Three kids are missing on the mountain. They missed their check in, and search and rescue (SAR) has been tasked with finding them. It’s what we do. We track down the lost and injured and bring them home. I’ve been a member of this unit, primarily based around Mount Hood, Oregon, but working wherever we are needed in the Pacific Northwest, for about three years. Given my profound lack of experience at the onset, I’ve only actually been useful for about a year, maybe two.
We have a general idea of where the three kids are, or at least where they are supposed to be. At the base of the mountain, where most climbs start, is a climbers’ register where parties write down their intended route, expected return date, and what equipment they have – vital information in just this type of situation.
It’s cold and windy. Visibility is low. No one wants to be in the field on days like this. But, as Rocky, a veteran member once told me, only hal…