The Mountain Calls: Mountain Rescuers Hanspeter and Benedikt
Whenever I look out my office window, I see the summit of Mt. Säntis. Here in Herisau, we’re right at the foot of the Swiss Prealps. A lot of the people who live and work here spend at least some of their spare time in the mountains, hiking and mountaineering in summer and skiing in winter. Two of them are Hanspeter Gredig and Benedikt Herzer. They both work in the electronics division of Metrohm’s R&D department and are passionate alpinists who use their alpine experience to help people in emergency situations: they’re active in mountain rescue.
Two Generations of Metrohm Veterans
Both Benedikt and Hanspeter have been working at Metrohm for quite a while. Benedikt is now in his ninth year at Metrohm. The Herisau native joined Metrohm for an apprenticeship as a chemical lab technician. During his later chemistry studies, he discovered his interest in electronics, so he went on to study the subject in evening courses.
Hanspeter has been at Metrohm twice as long. He joined 18 years ago—after a small detour: «After finishing school, I went for an apprenticeship in administration at the Swiss postal service, but that wasn’t for me. So I started again from square one, this time in the field of measurement technology, acoustics, and vibration analysis. This ultimately brought me to Metrohm.»
How to Become a Mountain Rescuer
Benedikt has been hiking ever since he was a child. Today he spends as much time as possible in the mountains, whether he’s climbing or skitouring. He just recently finished his two years of candidature at the mountain rescue. «Before joining the mountain rescue, I had been in two situations where I was able to help hikers who were in emergency situations», he recounts. «This, and also knowing two other people active in mountain rescue, inspired me to join as well.»
One of these two people is Hanspeter. He has been active in mountain rescue for 30 years and is the rescue chief of the unit of Appenzell Inner Rhodes today: «I joined as a candidate, just like Benedikt. By completing further trainings over time I made a bit of a carreer, even though I hadn’t planned this—it just happened.»
Joining the mountain rescue requires that you’re an experienced alpinist already, but much more knowledge and skills are required. According to Hanspeter, it is especially important to have extensive medical knowledge: «We have to assess situations correctly and be able to diagnose what’s the matter with each patient. This is essential to provide adequate care and bring the patients to safety while putting them through as little pain as possible.»
In addition to acquiring medical knowledge, different rescue scenarios are trained regularly, such as tree or rock rescues and avalanche searches and rescues. «Knowledge and skills are not all that counts, though», Hanspeter adds. «It is absolutely essential that we work as a team. We have to know our colleagues well and trust them 100%.»
In Case of Emergency
In Hanspeter’s 30-year carreer in mountain rescue, he has seen many operations. «In my unit’s territory, there are about 50 operations per year. Ever since I’ve started working in Herisau, I haven’t been able to take part in urgent operations though. It simply takes me too long to get to site of the emergency. So nowadays I only take part in 2 to 3 operations a year—but my backpack is always packed and ready in case my help is needed.»
Benedikt has been in two operations so far: «When you’re needed in an operation, you get a phone call that covers only very brief information, mainly what you need to bring and where to meet.» At the meeting point, the rescuers get some more detailed information. «However,» Hanspeter adds, «you never really know what awaits you at the emergency scene. No two situations are ever the same, and I’ve had good surprises and bad ones, too.»
There are situations in which not even the mountain rescuers can help: «Especially in winter», says Benedikt, «conditions can be too dangerous, for example when there’s a high risk of avalanches. It’s important to always keep a clear head and make responsible decisions.»
The Fascination of Mountains
Hanspeter describes himself as a child of nature. «What fascinates me about the mountains in particular is perhaps being exposed to the elements and the forces of nature—forces that you can’t control», he says. «It’s contrary to our work in development where we control every detail. The rock and the weather pose a challenge that is thrilling to overcome.» For Benedikt as well, experiencing nature in its full force is one of the reasons he’s so passionate about mountaineering: «It’s a welcome contrast to our civilized life down here and it’s a reminder that you’re not the center of the world. Also, there is something very touching about seeing the sun rise alone at the top of a mountain.