If you get lost in the mountains, one of the groups likely to be called in to find you will be Bush Search and Rescue (BSAR). BSAR is a dedicated volunteer search and rescue group active in the state of Victoria, and is a division of Bushwalking Victoria Inc.

BSAR participates in land-based search and rescue activities for persons lost in bush and alpine areas, in conjunction with and under direction from the Victoria Police Search and Rescue Squad.

Mountain Journal is presenting a series of stories on people who are Giving Back to the mountains and the mountain community. This first in the series features the words of BSAR volunteer Warren Sanders, better known as ‘Sheepy’.

I become part of BSAR after moving to Mount Beauty in 2016 to continue a career in Outdoor Education. Shortly after the move I became a committee member of the Birkebiner Nordic Ski Club. In a previous career I had spent time as a Helicopter SAR winchman and spent a many years guiding rock climbing and mountaineering in the Swiss Alps. It wasn’t long before I was encouraged to oversee SAR within the club. I had no knowledge of BSAR at the time but was quickly learned what they do and how BNSC members form an integral part of the organisation.

Bushwalking Victoria (previously known as The Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs or VicWalk), is an association of more than sixty clubs and individual members. Bushwalking Victoria has maintained a Search and Rescue Section since 1949. This was formed to assist Police during searches for people lost in remote or difficult terrain. This occurred after a number of individual members of bushwalking clubs served as volunteers during an unsuccessful search for a solo walker lost at Wilsons Promontory. Senior Police were very impressed with the skill and independence of these walkers and encouraged the Federation to establish a formal search and rescue group. Several clubs made this a reality.

In the early 1990s the Section changed its name to Bushwalkers Search and Rescue and then Bush Search and Rescue Victoria.

BSAR2While the entry requirements are bushwalking skills, BSAR conducts training with the Victorian Police SAR Squad annually in aspects of search and rescue specific skills. For those who have independently acquired additional skills in backcountry skiing or steep snow and ice, additional training in related search and rescue skills in those environments is also provided.

In 2017 I took part in my first search – a missing hiker on Mount Bogong in July. Admittedly I was sceptical of how the search would be run, equipment other volunteers would be carrying and experience these people would have going onto Bogong in winter. I was blown away by the complete professionalism of it all and could see firsthand why the Victoria Police SAR Squad had complete trust in this organisation. It was clear to me that volunteering my time with BSAR was going to tick all my boxes – I can combine passion of adventure, skiing, roping up on steep snowy slopes all while assisting the police by providing more search teams and helping the public find their loved ones.

Collectively BSAR are a highly competent well trained, knowledgeable and practised organisation. Searches begin with the first automated call out and finish with a post search well-being phone call complete the circle. New members are welcomed through local bushwalking clubs or direct through Bushwalking Victoria. Members of BSAR do not have rosters. Once BSAR are activated by the police they send an automated call message to all members who then choose to attend or not. No obligation. Searches can be carried out at any time of the year across all types of terrain and in any part of the state.

My takeaway would be that although technology and mobiles phones are making finding those wanting to be found much easier, there are more and more people getting out each year on new adventures. It is inevitable some of them will need assistance at some point. BSAR will be there to help.

To find out more about BSAR check their website.

Images: BSAR