By Sheridan Block
Twenty-plus years and at least 300 rescues later, the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team’s roadside savior — affectionately known as “Venerable R12” — will soon retire. Earlier this month, OMRT began its fundraising campaign to replace the crew’s main road rescue vehicle.
Venerable R12 is the main rescue vehicle for roadside missions. OMRT member Jeff Skoloda said it is typically used for rescues along US 550 as well as some Jeep road rescues where vehicles and individuals may have fallen down a cliffside.
The vehicle is specifically equipped to handle rescues where hoisting individuals is required. Venerable R12 features a special pull rope system mounted on a customized bumper as well as two adjustable arms attached to the rooftop ladder rack. The system allows rescuers to reach high directional points over steep edges, making rope movement and maneuvering as easy as possible without disturbing edges or adding friction to the system, explained Skoloda. The unit also creates a safer way to hoist and raise patients and rescuers out of difficult situations.
However, over the years the rescue rig has started wearing down and OMRT is in desperate need of a younger but just as capable model to replace it.
“That vehicle has gotten to the point where it’s not reliable enough,” said Skoloda. “When a page goes out, we need to be prepared.”
OMRT has budgeted $65,000 to purchase a new vehicle which will include the same rigging system as the Venerable R12 as well as the required suspension modifications and radio system. Skoloda also noted the new vehicle will include an “enclosed back” to allow the team to carry a litter and keep patients out of potentially harsh elements. Likewise, a lighter vehicle would make traverses over Jeep roads more manageable.
According to Skoloda, the team believes a new vehicle with all the bells and whistles can be purchased within the $65,000 budget.
Within two weeks, OMRT has raised about $25,000 for the vehicle. The team will also pursue grants and host other fundraising events to help pay for the new vehicle, but Skoloda noted community support is critical to the endeavor.
“Our community is what makes Mountain Rescue work. We’re made up entirely of volunteers and there are no paid positions. We respond 24/7, 365 days a year and there is no charge for our services,” he said.
OMRT will not be without a rescue vehicle should the Venerable R12 decide to retire early. The team’s fleet also includes a Toyota Land Cruiser, which is dedicated to backcountry rescue missions. However, a big-rig unit like R12 is “pivotal” for roadside rescues, said Skoloda.
Donations can be mailed to Ouray Mountain Rescue Team, P.O. Box 220, Ouray, CO 81427. Supporters can also donate online through Paypal at www.ouraymountainrescue.com or drop off donations at Ouray Glassworks with team member Sam Rushing. OMRT is a 501c3 organization and all donations are tax deductible (see OMRT’s website for its tax ID number).
“All donations are greatly appreciated, no matter the size,” said Skoloda. “The community has always been awesome about supporting us. Now we’re just asking for a little help.”