It became a tradition now. Every year at the beginning of June I get a call from THE commander. That became his nickname, but his real name is Walter. He is a leader of Slovenian Cave Rescue Service, internationally known as CSAR (Cave search and rescue). This call requires me to take one Saturday off from my “weekend warrioring” and dedicate it to the guys whose help I might need one day if something goes south while I am in the canyons. I feel it as my obligation to be there and I feel also honoured to be called in to share my canyoning knowledge with the team every year.

This is Walter Zakrajšek, the leader of Slovenian Cave SAR

This year we had a plan to do the rescue exercise in Koritnica river, below the Kluže fortress. The water level was far from safe to do the canyon so we had to improvise. We divided into three groups. First did the victim extraction through the gully with the help of “bernard” hauling system. The second team had to build the Tyrolean Traverse with hauling system. And the third team had to do something as well… Since the guys mostly have no clue about the whitewater swimming and rescue we decided to do the quick course into that subject in the whitewater section at the end of the canyon.

A long rope, dedicated for the motorized winch.

Unfortunately, I was all busy with instructing the third team about the whitewater swimming and rescue techniques so I wasn’t able to take photos. But debriefing showed that we did a good job, guys loved the knowledge I passed on them. My main aim was to make them aware of how strong the water can be and that they shouldn’t play heroes and do contact rescue if somebody is in the water. By unintentionally drinking water while passively swimming down the river they learned that there is nothing you can do against the water. And that in panic and agony the baby gets the strength of the adult… The knowledge that might be also useful in everyday life if we encounter a situation of a person drowning.

That’s how the C-SAR connects the rope 🙂

The most attractive part of the whole rescue exercise was a Tyrolian Traverse hauling system. Guys decided to do it over the canyon about 50 meters in the air. The span of a Tyrolian Traverse was 80 meters and they used more than 1 kilometre (!!) of rope to do the whole system. That’s a loooot of rope! And quite confusing sight when you look at all the rope on the floor. The team took its time and thought about every step. They were in no rush. The only thing pushing them to work faster was unpleasant rain that was raining like cats and dogs… Typical Bovec monsoon as I like to call it. But scroll through the following photos and you will see what the guys did.

Communication and the overview is crucial.
Every opinion counts.
Things are slowly getting the right shape.
Just a bunch of ropes and binners. And a Swivel. Nightmare for someone who is not into rope systems.
Branko Mur, the caretaker of the CSAR gear.
Marko Erker, one of the guys with biggest amount of technical knowledge in the team. Getting ready to hang in the air.
Quite a crowd.
Getting into the position.
Stretcher is getting lowered. Marko will follow.
Body is getting recovered from the canyon.
She is all fine. It was quite an experience, hanging in the air in the stretcher.

So what to say. I will start with the proverb – practice makes perfect. It is really good to know that CSAR team does canyon rescue exercise at least once a year. You can check last years exercise feedback here. It is even better to know, that they do it despite the fact that they haven’t had any serious canyon rescue so far. And we all hope it stays that way. But in case they happen to be called for help one day, they will be there and they will be ready.