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National Search and Rescue Week Honors Outdoor Heroes

Know someone who serves with or volunteers for a search and rescue team? Shake their hand—this is National Search and Rescue Week.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that designated May 16-22 a week to honor the nation’s search and rescue personnel, a dedicated group who are called on with surprising frequency. A 2009 study showed that national parks launch an average of 11 search and rescue operations per day.

“As an avid hiker and mountaineer, I take steps to prepare myself and minimize my risk whenever I pack for a trip,” Cantwell said.  “But I understand that no amount of preparation can protect you from an accidental misstep or an unforeseen circumstance, and it is often the swift response of trained search and rescue personnel that makes the difference between tragedy and survival.”

One of the driving forces behind the resolution was Mike Gauthier, a former lead climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park who is now serving at the Dept. of Interior in Washington, D.C., as a legislative specialist. Gauthier (go-tee-ay) has participated in more than 200 rescues at Rainier, several performed while dangling from a cable attached to a helicopter.

“This is a very personal story for me as my friends and fellow rangers, Sean Ryan and Phil Otis, died during a mountain rescue high on Mt. Rainier in 1995,” Gauthier said. “Finding them on the glacier that day changed the trajectory of my life and career, and steeled my resolve to change the way we worked as climbing rangers.  Being able to help with this resolution is part of my commitment to honor and remember them and their spirit.”

Gauthier has aspirations that a national museum and memorial for search and rescue personnel will be created. “Some of the hardest, most valuable and rewarding moments of my time as a park ranger have been during search and rescue missions,” he says. “I worked with many incredible people who unselfishly gave their time and energy to risk their lives in order to help others in emergencies.”

For a historical look at mountain rescue in the Pacific Northwest and the founding of the Mountain Rescue Association, check out Mounrains Don't Care, But We Do, a 2009 book by Dutch-born mountaineer Dee Molenaar.


{Photo courtesy of Mike Gauthier)

Posted on at 10:45 AM

Tagged: Maria Cantwell, Mike Gauthier, Mount Rainier, National Search and Rescue Week, Search and Rescue and national parks

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