Nature park "Ergaki" is becoming more and more popular every year as a place for active recreation, gradually turning into the next "Mecca" of Russia. According to various sources, about 2 to 3 thousand "guests" visit the "Sleeping Sayan Mountains".
But there is a problem: the majority of the people going to the mountains has not had even minimal preparation for it. Most of them not just can't tie a "sea knot", but can't even start a simple campfire. And, as is well known, the mountains do not forgive mistakes.
So our adventure seekers get into situations where their life and health are at stake. That is the reason for creating a search-and-rescue team of KTBU "Spasatel" in Yermak district, in the opinion of the chief of Siberian regional center of sport preparation and rehabilitation of rescue workers "Ergaki", Boris Chekhovskiy.
In 2011, "Ergaki" turned into a powerful center of athletic preparation and rehabilitation for rescue workers, where the rescue team is located , and where the preparation and training of people for this unbelievably dangerous and complicated work.
Of course, the tourist expansion of the Sayans is not he only reason. Chekhovskiy enumerates other reasons for the creation of this center as well.
- When in 2022 the Lebed airplane crashed here, the heads of MChS recognized the necessity of creation a rescue team in Yermak district, - he tells us. - And five years later, in February 2007, the KTBU base "Spasatel" was formed.
In Chekhovsiy's words, the team had only six people then, but soon it was increased to thirteen rescue workers.
- But when in 2008 active recreation became popular, and masses of totally unprepared people invaded the mountains, we were swamped by an avalanche of rescue work, - he continues. - Then the matter of enlarging the base came up again. That is precisely when the leadership of our ministry made the decision not simply to enlarge the base, but to create a center with a powerful professional and technical basis, not just for rescue function but for also for education and training, as is obvious form its name.
The center is accredited by the ministry of education of Krasnoyarsk Krai, and has the right to carry out training of rescue workers in six subjects: mountain skiing training, equestrian, cynological, mountaineering, avalanche, and, of course, basic.
Just during the first year of the center's existence, fifty rescuers underwent training there. But already in 2012, another 217 people were added to this number.
The equestrian-cynological section deserves a paragraph of its own - it is in a way the pride of the center.
- We have been involving our smaller brothers in rescue operations even when the center was not in existence yet, - the chief tells us. - We often hired horses at local tourist bases.
As he explains, participation of a horse in an operation makes the work of human rescuers significantly simpler. It is because if the victim is not able move around independently, about 12 people are necessary to take him through the taiga on a stretcher.
- Just think what it is like to move through the taiga, ford mountain streams, get stuck in marshes, while you are carrying a stretcher, - Chekhovskiy asks a question and answers it. - It is very difficult and it takes a long time. But occasionally the victim needs medical help fast.
- With a horse, it is much simpler, - he continues, - if the person can stay on a horse, we sit him in the saddle and lead the horse. It is more complicated if the victim is unconscious or simply can't sit upright. Then we bring in a special stretcher which can be fastened to a cargo saddle.
This stretcher was designed and made by the rescue workers of the center, and it was tried out quite a few times not just for training, but in real rescue operations. The rescuers tell us that once it was even used to bring a dead body out of the taiga.
As a matter of fact, the rescuers have a very high opinion about Tuvan breed of horses. They are very hardy, have great endurance, and stable temperament. Unpredictable behavior in a horse in rescue work would only complicate matters.
As far as the cynological service of the section is concerned, seven quadruped "staff members" work at the center. Four are already accredited, and have participated in rescue operations. The rest are preparing for professional qualification exams. In the words of the chief of this sub-section, Svetlana Usoltseva, to perform rescue work, especially in taiga or mountainous location, without specially trained dogs is not impossible, but solving many of the tasks without four-legged rescuers becomes much more complicated.
- It is a mistaken opinion that dogs need at first to be put on the scent to find a victim. It is not so, - explains Usoltseva. - Search dogs are trained to react to the smell of any person. This skill is developed by special training.
At the center, as we have already said above, are seven dogs - easily trained German shepherds, clever Golden retrievers, and good-natured Labradors.
- Their function is to find the victim and attract the rescuers' attention, that is why we don't use, for example, laikas (Russian bear-hounds, H.J.), continues the cynologist, lovingly patting the intelligent head of fully accredited retriever Vesta.
Dogs of hunting breeds, regardless of their great adaptation to taiga conditions, are unsuitable for rescue work. Let them out into the forest, and their hunting instincts wake up. Instead of rescue, they will switch over to seeking and hunting game animals.
As far as St. Bernards are concerned, who have been used for rescue work on Alpine slopes since 18th century, their body build does not allow for active work in deep and fresh snow - the heavy dogs simply sink into the snow and become stuck. That is why there aren't any at the center.
Dogs are used both in summer and winter. When it is cold, they wear special dog coats; even though the four-legged staff members are not crazy about them, they tolerate it.
The zone of responsibility of the rescue base includes Ergaki, Aradan and Oi mountains, the south of Krasnoyarsk Krai and Pii-Khem district of Tuva. But its activity is not limited to this area.
- My guys took part in evacuation of the bodies of the air team who perished in Tuva while fighting forest fires, - Chekhovskiy tells us. - We are a regional team, but if necessary, we can be deployed to any point in Russia.
Even though there is more than enough for them to do where they are.
- There are very many tourists in the forested mountain massifs. Every year somebody gets lost, and somebody is injured, - Boris Afanasievich shares, - in the summer, it is tourists and alpinists, in winter we get snowboarders and skiers.
As he explains, injuries in mountains mostly consist of sprains and trauma to foot and lower leg. Sometimes some "tough guy" manages to chop off a part of himself with an axe. Sometimes more serious accidents happen, as well as attacks by predators. For example, in 2008 one tourist was attacked by an enraged bear, and twice a helicopter had to be brought to Marble Waterfall of ill fame, which has a nasty reputation among the tourist brotherhood.
- There is nothing nasty about the place, simply there are many huge boulders in that location, covered with wet lichen; people climb all over them slip and fall, - Chekhovskiy simply explains the ill fame of Marble Waterfall. - And resulting injuries are often serious, strong contusions, skull fractures. If you don't call a helicopter, he'll be "number two hundred".
But, fortunately, it is very rarely that we have to use a helicopter. Even though the use of aviation makes rescue operations much simpler.
The chief of the center also decided to share several concrete histories from his rescue practice. This is one of them - it happened before the center was formed in 2008. That operation took all of five days.
- Two hunters went to collect medicinal herbs in the Oi mountain district, where are many huge boulders at the foot of the mountain. One of them slipped and fell from the boulder into the gap, and severely injured both of his legs, - Chekhovskiy tells us. - one leg was fractured, and the other had ligament tears aside from a fracture. His friend helped him out of the fissure and also dragged and carried him through the taiga for some time, but the victim developed a fever. His friend became afraid that his buddy is developing gangrene, and came to contact us. He left the victim in the taiga and walked for 100 kilometers to tell us. We went there at a run. As we got over the pass, it started snowing, and it was bad, 40 centimeters (@ 16 inches) in several hours. We were all in summer overalls, some even in sneakers. There was nothing to be done about it, we gave the herbalist an injection, warmed him up, fed him, and when we made sure that there was no gangrene, we left one rescuer with him and the rest of us went back into the taiga. We spent the night in a hut at Oi lake, and in the morning we came back already fully equipped. Anyway, we brought the guy out, he survived, and now he is fine. But it cost us an enormous effort, - Chekhovskiy spread his arms. - One does not think of himself at times like this. The main thing is to rescue the victim.
Such situations, in the words of the chief of the center, are no rarity. Last year a similar case happened at the fishless lakes. The rescuers from the center had to evacuate a young woman from there on a stretcher, who received a glancing blow from a falling tree.
- She could not walk, and from her shoulder to her ankles, the poor girl's side was one huge bruise. The worst danger in these cases is renal failure. So the rescuers carried her through the taiga on the stretcher, and one of them had to manage to hold an intravenous solution drip above her all the time. That situation was made much more complicated by a bear who followed at their heels. But everything ended up well, for the rescuers and for the victim.
So that is an usual workday for rescuers from the regional center. In truth, each of them can say about himself, in the words of the old song: "Our duty is dangerous, our duty is hard."
But we should not forget about the third function of the center - rehabilitation of rescuers.
- Remember the disaster at Sayano-Shushenskoye dam power plant; many of the rescuers involved in liquidation of the consequences of the catastrophe had to be rehabilitated in both their physical as well as psychological health. For these vents, rehabilitation of rescue workers is demanded, - is how Chekhovskiy justifies the necessity for the third component of the center. But the center, as its chief explains, is not just for the rescue workers, but also for their families.
- Any one rescue worker from anywhere in Russia can bring his family here for a vacation, - he says, not without pride.
The center has a swimming pool, gym, a kind of a spa-salon with phyto-therapy and massage. And just the nature of the Sayan mountains, in Chekhovskiy's opinion, has a positive influence on people.
- One can recreate here in body and soul.
Chekhovskiy avoided answering a question about further plans of the center. He said that the rescuers better not make any plans.
- The main thing is to train constantly, be prepared, increase one's qualification, in order to rescue people, - he believes.