This past weekend we had our first real snowstorm of the year.  Down in town, there was a mixture of rain & snow and it didn’t amount to much.  However, up in the hills we received over a foot of snow that will likely stick around until next summer. Considering that it’s been a pretty warm and dry fall here, the change was pretty abrupt and a little bit of a shock to the system.

Saturday evening a call came out over the Fire Dept. pager looking for High Angle Rescue Team Members to participate in a potential rescue/recovery of a canine on Sunday morning.  The dog (Mujah) was a Britney Spanial hunting dog that had evidently fallen off of a cliff while hunting and the owner was unable to locate it.

The Ketchum Fire Dept. does not normally perform backcountry rescues of animals.  In this case however, a way was found for the cost of the operation to be paid by the dog owner and, to me, it was an opportunity to gain some excellent training in pretty horrendous weather conditions.

...the warming fire

We started out at daybreak on Sunday morning and hiked approximately 3 miles up to an elevation of @ 8,800 ft. close to the spot where the dog was last seen.  We immediately built a fire for warmth and proceeded to dry out as much as possible while we refueled and planned our strategy for gaining access to the cliff.

...the icy rope didn't like being thrown a second time!

Once we’d warmed up a bit and refueled, the team split into two groups.  One group headed around and up to the top of the cliff while the second group was assigned to maintain the fire and also search the area at the bottom of the cliff.  I was on the “upper” team and we hiked the additional 20 minutes up to the top of the cliff band.  We set up a ropes system and proceeded to scour the cliff and all of it’s ledges below for a good part of the day.

Unable to locate the dog, we returned to the bottom of the cliff where we regrouped, packed up, and headed back down.  In the end, we were in the field for 7 hours.  It snowed hard the entire day and we were hiking through 4-12″ of snow.  All in all, it was a pretty smooth operation, all things considered.  We were all disheartened not to find Mujah and bring him home but, in the end, he was a hunting dog who died while hunting.  I guess you can’t ask for much more than that.

...the Team with 'Mujah's Rock' in the background.

R.I.P. Mujah


~ by ketchumgreg on October 28, 2010.

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