CLEVELAND, S.C. (WSPA) – Spending time outdoors is popular in the Carolinas.

Whether it’s biking, hiking or climbing, people go to great heights for some of the best views.

Bald Rock

This particular spot, Bald Rock, is a South Carolina hotspot for hikers.

It’s one of several locations like Caesars Head and Jones Gap in Greenville County that are, at times, sites of rescue missions.

“They are doing low-angle rescues where they are practicing going down, checking a victim out, checking their vitals, finding out what injuries there are, packaging them up properly and then retrieving them and pulling them back up the mountain,” Steve Hunt, Greenville County Emergency Management, said.

Steve Hunt is the special operations coordinator for emergency services in Greenville County.

He helped train the men and women of South Carolina Task Force 6, Greenville County EMS, Greenville County deputies, local firemen and other first responders for low-angle rescues.

They are the kind of people you call for the most challenging rescues and the one’s that go over the edge to help.

“We have had some people with medical conditions who might have a seizure or some chest pains. We’ll assist them out,” Hunt explained. “Most of the calls are injuries to an ankle or leg.”

The first responders learned what to do if someone falls down a cliff and gets stuck with an injury.

“If it was somebody that had fallen off this rock, they can fly the drone down and eventually get a view of where that person is,” according to Hunt. “Are they on the ledge? They can even zoom in close enough to tell you if there are breathing if they are moving, stuff like that which is good information that they can relay back to us.”

Then crews work to identify an anchor point.

“We are limited up here in the mountains. We are not always blessed to have big trees or a big solid anchor, so here we are working on a multi-anchor system,” Robert Trusty, South Carolina Task Force 6, said. “It’s something that most of the time down in the city, in our normal jurisdictions, we don’t have to deal with. Once you get up here in the elevations this is what we are going to have to deal with, and work with.”

Robert Trusty has been with the task force for nearly a decade now.

While the rescue missions may not be an everyday call, he said first responders still need to be ready.

“We’ve got to know each others strengths and weaknesses. Throughout these trainings, that’s one of the major takeaways. We figure out who’s good at what and their strong suits. When that situation arises, we use them,” Trusty said. “We were doing a little bit of everything. We were refreshing on some knot-tying. We were refreshing on our critical angles.”

Low-angles rescues are hard work.

It takes teamwork and communication for everything to run smoothly.

After learning the skills to rescue a patient, crews on Bald Rock put it into action.

The scenario was to learn how to rescue someone injured in a location that was challenging to access.

While up at the top, first responders hoisted themselves into harnesses and rappelled down the rock to provide aid.

It was Elizabeth Franco’s, a Greenville County EMT, first time learning the ropes.

“Usually you only have one fire department with you and your partner on the ambulance, but different situations can turn quickly and more people come in or you are only you and your partner and you’ve got to do the hands now of five people, you know,” Franco said.

“We’re going to lift this side of the body up so that his weight is resting on that side. We are going to slide this under, in a controlled manner and then get him on the board,” one of the leaders explained.

“Listening was huge. Communication was really important during that whole thing with the partner I was with and adding more partners, to people at the top. You couldn’t see each other,” according to Franco.

Once the simulated patient was secure, they were assisted back to the top.

“Training is the only way you learn. You learn by repetition and motor skills. You know, the more you do it, the more you learn and that way when it comes time to do the job, you just fall back on muscle memory and you are able to do whatever you need to do,” Hunt said.

It’s the training that will continue, year after year. That way when the calls arrive, these first responders are prepared.

“I have been on several of the rescues up here with these guys,” said Hunt. “These guys and gals in Greenville County are some of the best around and I have been blessed to be on some calls with them.” 

Greenville County said they typically respond to about five to ten rescues like these between now and the end of the year.