The Cold Rescue

  • August 08, 2016
  • Posted by Kong Yang

The day was only supposed to entail a steady 5 mile hike into Iceberg Lake, a high-country survey (mountain goats and big-horned sheep), then hike back out to Many Glacier in Glacier National Park. The hike to Iceberg Lake was calm, cool and relaxing. The crew took pictures on the way, enjoying the views and cool air that day. Going slower than usual, we arrived at the lake around 11:30am. As we were walking to the shore looking for a spot to sit and devour our lunch, we saw three guys on an iceberg. The crew saw them and wanted to join, but as policy states: no swimming, only wading to the shortest person on the crew’s hips. As we were sitting, the once fun-looking activity turned into horror. One of the three men on the iceberg was thrown towards the shore, but came up a bit short. Next thing we saw, that man was struggling, flailing his arms with his head underwater. Everyone on shore just stood there yelling for others to take action. The other two men on the iceberg jumped into the lake to push him toward the shore, while two other men on the shore went in fully-clothed to help.

Now with the man who was struggling and the two saviors safely out of the cold water, everyone clapped and celebrated. The two fully-clothed men were given high-fives. Now comes what no one else thought about or probably didn’t know can happen because it was a warm sunny day: hypothermia. (I want to clarify that we did not take part in the rescue mission because I do not know how to swim and I would just create another patient/victim. The crew also did not go because we had told them not to; there were more than enough people already in the rescue process.)

At this point, Calysta and I started eating lunch, telling our crew the plan for the rest of the day; lunch, survey, hike out and then our work day was over. As we looked at three men who were in the water, we noticed something no one else probably did, uncontrollable shaking. Calysta and I looked at each other and kind of knew what we had to do. We had packed layers because we were preparing for a possible cold day by “Iceberg” Lake. One of the men simply asked out loud, “does anyone have a towel so I can dry off?” We did not have towels but we had extra layers, so we gave them our layers. From sweaters, winter gloves, rain jackets and even rain pants, we tried our best so they could stay warm. In addition our first aid kit had a space blanket, so we took that out and rotated it between the three men. We gave them some of the extra food and snacks we had. Calysta and I both took heart rates, CMS, and respiratory rates about every 15 to 20 minutes to make sure they were okay.

We had our radios with us, so we talked about calling in and possibly having help come to help hike out the three patients. As we waited, their vital signs were staying steady, so after an hour everyone was feeling warmer and better so we held off. Calysta and I talked and we came to the conclusion of splitting the crew in half: one staying to finish our survey and the other hiking out with the patients as a precaution.

When we got to the trailhead, we were met with rangers. They seemed disappointed in MCC because he had thought it was one of our crew members who had jumped into the freezing cold water. When he found out we were just good Samaritans, he changed his tone and thanked us. After the rangers let the patients go and left themselves, we had a good talk to our crew about one of the reason for the no swimming policy. We debriefed the situation and everyone was happy that no one got hurt. We do not know if we made a difference, the patients could have gotten warm by themselves, but we know we stepped in when no one else did. We were just doing our duty as Americorps members, MCC leaders, and as human beings.

I want to recognize our entire crew: Ravyn Bright, Zach Hawkins, Anna Henderson, Liam Stevens. They all had a part in helping the patients stay warm and gave up what food they could from their own supply. I especially want to thank Calysta Santacroce for displaying the calmness she did. That helped me stay calm and set us up for the best possible outcome. To me, our hike to Iceberg Lake will forever be known as The Cold Rescue.


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