• Mountain Rescue Workshop
  • MRW Key Points
  • Details
  • Photos


(See Current RTR Open Enrollment Schedule for when/where this program is offered)

The Mountain Rescue Workshop is a minimalist approach to mountain rescue procedures and teaches the access, stabilization and extrication of patients involved in mid-face free or aid climbing accidents, especially those where the accident site is only accessed from below. There is a heavy emphasis on advanced knotcraft (several boutique bowlines) in this workshop. The student will learn how to design and build system anchors from bolts, pitons and active and passive rock climbing camming devices. Strong emphasis is also placed on wilderness improvised techniques where specialized or heavier equipment has no place. Use of whipped and frapped wood frames as high directionals is encouraged, but also the use of the Rock Exotica Arizona Vortex (developed in Sedona, AZ by RTR) is also sometimes a focus of this workshop if desired by the students. In the 2022 Alaska MRW, the students were predominantly all mountain SAR members and they wanted to only use wood frames which was encouraged. Other MRW classes wanted diversity because the timber is more scarce. It depends on the location of the MRW.

This workshop is designed for the serious mountain environment rope rescue practitioner wishing to improve their personal and team rigging skill. The MRW goes well into often overlooked personal top down skills involving solo (one rescuer) and semi-solo (two rescuer) victim evacuations employing the rescuer's personal AZTEK kit. Also, the workshop explores the use of improvised low edge techniques for very difficult litter evolutions as well as artificial high directionals in the remote wilderness location. Gin poles, A frames and sideways (SA) frames are common from wood or metal. Also, advanced anchoring with "bombproof", substantial and marginal (contributory) anchors are used on rigging pods, bipods and sometime tripods (see photos). 

Students in the MRW practice their skills and learn to work together as a team in successful retrieval of this patient in a non-threatening environment. These are found in the Seven Minimalist Rescue Archetypes (7 MRA) that lay a groundwork for understanding how solo versus semi-solo rescues vary in their risk to the rescuer. The MRW goes well into often overlooked personal skills that are taken for granted on most rescue teams. There is also considerable time spent on rope learning to climb/descend rope by multiple methods (even improvised if you drop your friction appliance). Passing knots, deviations, rebelays, rope to rope transfers, aid climbing and problem solving are all part of the PSRW. Proficiency through repetition to mastery are encouraged. There is a very very strong emphasis on advanced knotcraft in this workshop! Students are tested throughout the program for proficiency and the ability to tie under pressure. All in fun, of course!

In addition to the top down 7 MRA the more recent MRW (as in the 2022 Juneau, Alaska and the earlier New York "Gunks" climbing area MRW) we also sometimes go into the very demanding bottom-up solo rescue techniques. These involve the well-known "pitch head solo rescue", the more severe, lesser known "pitch toe solo rescue" and the "counterbalance solo rescue" techniques. All of them are performed with an AZTEK, hand tied Purcell prusiks and all of them challenge the students to be self sufficient in the mountains. 

In one notable 2012 MRW, the crux of the MRW was where students free climb (or ascend) using the bight-carry technique to position a high directional above the victim on a wall. Students free climbed the famous "Queen Victoria Spire" (5:8) on the Mitten Ridge in Sedona to pull off this difficult task In this way, a heavy and cumbersome rescue adjunct (litter, etc.) can be brought to the victim high on a wall, under them, and then lowered downward (techniques used in tower rescues). Students also learn the classic differences belays, conditional belays and conditional self belays. In the superb rock of the Granite Dells of Prescott, the MRW involves more personal movement on stone and personal rigging skill. Lots of climbing and lots of fun! 

Bottom line: EVERY Mountain Rescue Workshop is different according to the needs of the students. 

From Ron Duvall, a student in the 2022 Juneau, Alaska MRW
I had 3 primary goals that I wanted to achieve going into the Mountain Rescue Workshop in Juneau Alaska. 1. Elevate my overall rigging skills, 2. Get a deeper understanding of rigging so that I may better teach and lead my team, and 3. Have fun doing it all. This course did not disappoint! I firmly believe this course made me a better rigger and refocused me on the importance of my knot craft (Thou Shalt Cleanly Rig!). I especially valued the 2 full days of Aztek work, practicing the 7 Minimalist Rescue Archetypes, Head Pitch, Toe Pitch, and Counterbalance techniques. Though the most fun was rigging high directionals using only natural materials in the pouring rain! Big thank you to Reed Thörne for being flexible and adjusting the course material to the desires of the class.
Ron Duvall
Volunteer, Juneau Mountain Rescue


From Ella Piatt a student in the 2022 Juneau, Alaska MRW 

I had the incredible honor of having the opportunity to participate in this years Ropes that Rescue (RtR): Mountain Rescue Workshop (MRW) based in Juneau, AK. As someone who is relatively new to technical rigging I found this course both informative and organized. Before RtR I had one rigging course which was great but felt that it focused more on the “what” whereas Thorne’s course focused on both the “what” and the “why”.

This course surpassed all expectations. It taught me the discipline and importance of clean rigging and gave me a new prospective of critically thinking and analyzing a system/situation.
I really appreciated Thorne going through a few of the 140+ uses for the Aztek as well as going over the 7 Minimalist Archetypes, Toe/Head Pitch and Counterbalance.
Though the lecture days are equally as informative and important the field days are where it all comes together. Students get hands on experience and a chance to put theory into motion.
Before the MRW my goal was to become a more competent rigger and ultimately gain more knowledge/skills to become a integral member of a mountain rescue team. I believe after taking this course I have achieved these goals.
I highly recommend this course to any rescue personnel looking to elevate their knowledge and skills on mountain rescue techniques to the next level.
Ella Piatt
Capital City Fire/Rescue Firefighter/EMT Volunteer
Juneau Mountain Rescue Responder


From Kenneth Laidlaw: 
(NOTE: Ken is an internationally known caver and cave/rope rescue authority who is highly respected in many differing disciplines dealing with rope work. Ken has an honorary place at Ropes That Rescue due to his prominence in the field and has attended at no cost many MRW in Arizona)

My original introduction to rope rescue came through the challenges of cave exploration in vertical pits.  Very quickly one realizes a need to learn some skills to possibly help yourself and your teammates.  More often than not, you start a learning process from someone who only knows slightly more than you do.  This may not be the best plan.  But finding the best place to learn rope rescue skills can be daunting.

I began taking rope rescue classes and quickly discovered that the better instructors all had experience with Arnor Larson in British Columbia.  I too turned to Arnor Larson for information.  He has retired but his basic concepts live on with a cadre of the next generation.  Reed Thorne had trained with Arnor and combined his ideas with the practical experiences of erecting high-tension electric power transmission lines across the Southwest United States.

One of classes that Reed Thorne teaches is called the Mountain Rescue Workshop.  This workshop allows one to practice all the necessary skills to perform an efficient rope rescue, with a minimum amount of equipment, and in very, challenging terrain.  It focuses on a lot of knot craft and traditional techniques.

I have attended several RTR Mountain Rescue Workshops over the years.  Technical rope rescue is a very perishable skill and rarely does one get challenged in their daily lives to properly maintain the skills. 

When one is at their home area, they probably do not have someone there to critique their performance.  This workshop provides that opportunity, not only from the instructor, but also from some very highly skilled students who may be attending.

If your role at home involves passing your knowledge and skills to others, you will also get good ideas on ways to present the material.

I now have quite a bit of experience with rope rescue training programs over the past fifty years from a wide range of vendors.  Reed Thorne’s Mountain Rescue Workshop experience for seven days is the best place to be challenged in mastering the basic techniques of remote access mountain rescue rope skills. 


NOTE: This workshop's scope varies according to the student's desires and needs. Not all the below can be accomplished in certain MRW

  • Mountain rescue basics: Video 1A from Reed Thörne: "Introduction to Rope Rescue" (Thörne Group Inc)
  • Bottom up versus top down solo rescue techniques
  • Introduction to pulley systems
  • Physics for mountain rescue
  • Use of the AZTEK kit in mountain environs
  • Top-down solo rescuer pick offs (The Seven Minimalist Rescue Archetypes or 7 MRA)
  • Semi-solo rescuer pick offs ("gecko" and hanging) using tools from harness (The Seven Minimalist Rescue Archetypes or 7 MRA)
  • AZTEK kit orientation for personal and team operations:
    • First 8 uses of AZTEK
    • Single and double part hasty rappels (5 & 6)
    • Belays and self belays (3 & 4)
    • Dynamic fixed and traveling brakes
    • Ascending with AZTEK in 2 parts (7)
    • Personal travel restrict (1 & 2)
    • Set of fours pulley system (8)
  • Bottom-up solo rescues: (optional)
    1. Pitch head solo rescue
    2. Pitch toe solo rescue
    3. Counterbalance solo rescue
  • High angle mid-face litter scoops 
  • Steep angle litter evacuations with minimal loading on anchors (one bearer and maybe another helper)
  • Lead climbing (optional) using bight carry technique for extreme bottom up rescues
  • Belays, self belays, conditional belays and conditional self belays
  • Improvisation and a 'minimalist' approach to mountain rescue
  • Patient assessment & packaging in mountain environment
  • Rappelling techniques with improvisation in mind
  • Sound anchoring principles with marginal rock climbing protection
  • Pre-tensioned backties for focused and focused floating anchors
  • "Bombproof", substantial and marginal (contributory) anchor building with small cordelette 
  • Drilled pitons in various rock types (optional)
  • Active and passive rock climbing protection placement
  • Split coil carries; low angle carries
  • Wood frame artificial high directionals
  • Cocoon stretchers from climbing rope only
  • Caterpillar passes and role rotation during litter carries
  • Much more....
7 Days - Some days are up to 10 to 12 hours in length & night ops are possible
12 Students
Moderately Difficult to Difficult
Classroom 30%, Practicals 70%

Prerequisites: Some rescue or climbing experience recommended

Get: RTR Application
Go to: Registration Information
Find out tuition and when and where offered: See Schedule

From Ropes That Recue collection. All photos copyright RTR ©1999/2022

Hawaiian Shirt Day (final day of 7 day Mountain Rescue Workshop program) at Mendenhall Glacier in Jueau, Alasks 2022

Mountain Rescue Workshopin Juneau, Alasks: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue erect "bombproof" wood rigging pod with Jury Masthead Hitches

Mountain Rescue Workshop in Juneau, Alasks: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue erect "bombproof" wood rigging pod with Jury Masthead Hitches

Mountain Rescue Workshop 2021: Members of the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Team doing V-strap litter transition at Deception Gulch in Jerome, Ariozna

Mountain Rescue Workshop in Juneau, Alasks: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue erect a wood frame SA-frame for a steep angle litter evacuation

Mountain Rescue Workshop in Juneau, Alasks 2022: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue erect a wood frame SA-frame for a steep angle litter evacuation

Mountain Rescue Workshopin Juneau, Alasks: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue build a focused bombproof anchor on a pine tree using part of the AZORP accessory for the AZ Vortex 

Mountain Rescue Workshopin Juneau, Alasks: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue build a bombproof anchor using multiple back ties. Wood frame A-frame is used distal on the edge for a steep angle litter evacuation 

Mountain Rescue Workshopin Juneau, Alasks: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue erect an SA-frame at the edge near Mendenhall Glacier

Mountain Rescue Workshop in Prescott, AZ using the Arizona Vortex frame in the Granite Dells

Mountain Rescue Workshop 2017 in The Gunks (Mohonk Preserve) climbing area in New York. Helen Curran and Frank Tkac, both climbing rangers there. perform mid face personal rescue skills on Hawaiian Shirt Day.

Mountain Rescue Workshop in Sedona Arizona in 2004, Persona rescue skills are a foundation of the MRW regardless of location.

Mountain Rescue Workshop 2017 in The Gunks (Mohonk Preserve) climbing area in New York. Andrew Bajardi, head climbing ranger, performs difficult edge transition out of a rock cravasse. Multiple AZ Vortex frames were used.

Mountain Rescue Workshop in Juneau, Alasks: Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue and Capital City Fire & Rescue during Hawaiian Shirt Day 2022 

Mountain Rescue Workshop 2014 in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales in Austarlia. Famous location called "Hanging Rock" used during program with a two rope offset during last day of MRW.


  • Canyon Rescue Workshop
  • CRW key points
  • Details
  • Photos


(Contact us at info@ropesthatrescue.com for details and next offering. You may see Current RTR Open Enrollment Schedule for when/where this program is offered)

BY INVITATION ONLY. NO TUITION REQUIRED. We are pleased to offer a rescue rigging program in southern Utah's beautiful canyonlands and slot canyons. The Canyon Rescue Workshop is specifically designed for the Southwest's sedimentary canyon plateaus and slot canyons (Arizona/Utah/Nevada/Colorado). This intensive program focuses on both personal and team-oriented skills. The Canyon Rescue Workshop is a hands-on workshop stressing a minimalist approach to canyonland rescue procedures and teaches the access, stabilization and extrication of patients involved in canyoneering and mid-face free climbing accidents. Students will design and build system anchors from bolts, pitons, sand picket systems and active and passive rock climbing camming devices. Strong emphasis is also placed on wilderness improvised techniques where specialized or heavier equipment has limited application. The CRW is designed for the serious search and rescue rope practitioner or park ranger wishing to improve their personal and team rigging skill and is designed for rescuers and teams with every type of possible terrain (including slot canyons common to the Southwestern US) from which a potential victim must be retrieved. Lectures on relative rescue subjects or physics are common throughout the duration of this workshop. Students, as a team unit, learn how to build seemingly complex arrangements for reaching, treating and extricating a patient from the extremely confined canyon environment. Many of these solutions involve high angle offsets and highlines however all do not. All the while, emphasis is placed on building everything from the basic materials most teams will have along: rope, carabiners, pulleys, accessory cord, webbing and know-how. Also extensive use of the Arizona Vortex artificial high directional during this program. 

Participants must be in good physical condition. Wet suits/dry suits required for participants wanting to venture into wet canyon environments during the CRW. All canyoneering practices will be on minimum two points of contact (main and a safety) during this program. 

NOTE:  Wilderness camping or car camping is available at our slot canyon venue. Porta-potty and full kitchen available with stoves and fresh water but arrangements must be made in advance of the class. This will involve a small cost if you participate which will be shared by the participants.  Those wilderness camping must bring tent or other shelter. Many of the mountainous locations in the canyonlands where we hold our practical sessions are far removed from the trail head and often involve a rigorous hike at elevations exceeding 5,000 feet. Some hikes are more than a mile in length and on cross country routes.

Camping REQUIRED for participation in this ALL VOLUNTEER PROGRAM.

  • Slot canyon rescue (confined space problems)
  • Knotcraft
  • Sandstone anchoring
  • Improvised anchoring
  • Comparison between high angle offsets and highlines
  • High angle offsets for canyon rescue:
    • Tag lines
    • Guiding lines
    • Tracking lines
    • Skate blocks
    • Deflected
    • Two rope (pendulum)
  • Complete rescue highlines for canyon rescue:
    • Standard transportation-type highlines
    • Drooping highlines
    • Reeving highlines (for varying trackline angles)
  • Highline/offset logistics and teardown
  • Simple, Compound and complex pulley systems
  • Various pilot and messenger delivery systems
  • Methods of locating the canyon access team and casualty within an incised slot canyon
  • Standard and advanced artificial high directionals:
  • Hot loading (with patient in litter) double carriage litters on steep angle highlines
  • Single, twin and quad trackline highlines (as time permits)
  • Much more..
7 Days - Invitation ONLY. The CRW is all volunteer and there are no fees for this program.
Upto 12 Students
10 to 12 hours per day
Classroom 30%, Practicals 70%
Significant lecture time during each evening
Camping is required for minimum 3 days

 Prerequisites: Prior rope and canyoneering experience REQUIRED

Please submit name, contact information and canyoneering experience resumé to info@ropesthatrescue.com 

Find out when and where CRW is offered: See Schedule 

Above, CRW participants perform multiple rope evolutions using "offsets" learned from earlier programs with RTR before moving into advanced highlines

An English Reeve highline being used to extricate a rescue package from the depths of a 150 ft deep narrow slot canyon in the Antelope Wash in Arizona