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Guest Post: Rescue in the Dolomites

Posted on: September 9th, 2010 by Erik Lambert

Via Ferrata

Recently, AAC executive director Phil Powers received a written letter from Margot Lacey, part of July expedition to the Dolomites that ended in tragedy and a call to Global Rescue. We asked her to share her thoughts here as well, amidst what is obviously a sensitive and  difficult situation, to share with everyone how our pooled dues really do make a difference for all of us when it matters most. Our sincerest sympathies go to the family of Spencer Swanger, AAC member and climber from Colorado.

I write to express my gratitude for a benefit of my AAC membership—namely, Global Rescue.

On July 20th, I was climbing with six others on the wonderful via ferrata system in the Italian Dolomites. We were feeling quite relieved to be past several sections of snow, where the cable was buried and there was significant exposure. Spencer Swanger, a well-respected Colorado hiker and climber was just about to join the rest of us in clipping in to a new section of cable when he had a misstep and plunged 450 feet to his death. The fall was witnessed by me and two others, including his wife—an incredibly difficult moment. Members in the group kept their wits and helped each other, while I put in an immediate call to Global Rescue, which both Spence and I had extended to cover us while in Europe.

Their response was both deft and reassuring. Matt Arcovio, who took my call, swiftly and calmly sized up the situation. It was difficult for me to give them our exact location, but using the scraps of information I was able to offer, they managed to determine where we were quite quickly, and set the rescue and recovery in motion. From my first conversation with Matt, I knew we were in good hands. Throughout all phases of the almost three hours that it took to get us off the mountain, Matt checked in frequently, making sure that our needs were being met. In the ensuing hours and days, Matt and others at Global Rescue remained a constant source of support for Spencer’s wife, helping her to communicate with the Italian authorities and to make the necessary arrangements. I know that she is as grateful as I am for Global Rescue’s friendly and compassionate expertise.

It is hard to accept the loss of such a long time friend, but I am struck by the way that this accident has reaffirmed my faith in basic human goodness. The amazing rescue team from the Bergrettung-Sexten helped us off the mountain, and we were treated with incredible kindness by the townspeople.

While we could thank the Italians in person, I knew from the moment that I returned that I needed to see the face of the person who was my lifeline while we waited on that ledge. Happily, since I live close to Boston, I made the visit to thank Matt and Global Rescue last week. While I hope that I never need their services again, it is nice to know they are there. Thank you for making Global Rescue part of my AAC membership!


Margot Lacey

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