Technical Mountain Rescue Leader, TMRL

Position Category: 
All-Hazard Positions
Position Code: 
Functional Area: 
AD Class: 


The purpose of this position is to supervise and lead a component of a technical mountain search, rescue, and recovery function during incident operations.  This includes responsibility for all personnel and equipment resources as well as overseeing and directly supervising members of a technical team.


  • Supervises, leads, and performs mountain search, rescue and recovery operations.  Coordinates, manages, and supervises assigned technical search, rescue and recovery activities.  Develops and completes all incident tactical objectives.
  • Develops and implements the mountain-based search, rescue and recovery component of the Incident Action Plan.  Coordinates activities for technical mountain search, rescue and recovery operations.  Leads searches in mountain, high altitude, glacier, and wilderness environments or other locations indicated in the Incident Action Plan using appropriate search equipment and techniques including technical rope rescue, hasty searches, grid searching for evidence or clues, aerial searches, helicopter operations, etc.
  • Searches for clues related to lost or injured climbers, skiers and backpackers in remote wilderness and mountainous areas.
  • Performs aerial search, helicopter insertion and extraction, helicopter hoist and hover landing operations per qualifications and certifications.
  • Performs technical rescue operations, often in mountainous or vertical environments, that may include constructing complex rigging systems, operating raise and lower systems, rigging and operating mechanical advantage systems, and managing suspended litters and patient attendants.
  • Coordinates, manages, and supervises assigned search and reconnaissance activities.  Determines team search and reconnaissance operational and logistical needs.  Evaluates the capabilities/limitations of team members, and ensures adherence to all safety procedures.  Evaluates team member performance.
  • Executes grade IV mountain climbs, and/or fifth class rock climbs in uncontrolled and hazardous terrain at altitudes above 8,000 feet.
  • Provides emergency medical treatment within the scope of the certification and training.
  • Accounts for, and ensures the proper utilization of all issued Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment.
  • Presents briefings, prepares situation reports and updates mission objectives and status changes.  Develops and completes all incident tactical objectives and reports.  Maintains accurate records, and completes all after-action requirements.  Completes operational period unit logs.
  • Provides input at the field level concerning research and development of new technologies, equipment, tactics and skills as they pertain to the search component.  Participates in the implementation and evaluation of pilot processes.
  • Performs additional tasks or duties as assigned during a mission.

Knowledge Required By Position

  • Operational knowledge of the Incident Command System (ICS), and the development and use of integrated action planning concepts and processes.
  • Operational knowledge of search, rescue and recovery systems, strategy and tactics as it pertains to various disaster response environments.
  • Ability to lead ground teams in the search for clues related to lost or injured climbers, skiers, hikers, and backpackers in remote wilderness and mountainous areas.
  • Expert knowledge of technical rope rescue and the ability to construct complex rigging systems, operate raise and lower systems, rig and operate mechanical advantage systems, manage a rope as it moves through a system, manage suspended litters and patient attendants, rig advanced anchors, and work in the vertical environment. 
  • Expert knowledge of high altitude mountaineering and mitigation techniques for dealing with mountaineering hazards such as avalanche, extreme cold, high altitude, and extreme weather.  Skilled in technical IV glacier mountaineering and technical fifth class rock climbing.
  • Advanced knowledge and situational awareness with regard to technical mountain rescue operations that include or require personal mountaineering clothing, tools and equipment, as well as rescue tools and equipment related to mountaineering and/or rock climbing.
  • Ability to lead teams in the performance of high angle rope and litter rescue, helicopter operations that may include insertion, extraction, and hoist or hover-landings, and the ability to carry a heavy pack at altitudes above 8,000 feet; and contend with extreme weather conditions.
  • Ability to guide inexperienced persons in and through technical and hazardous mountain terrain and conditions.
  • Knowledge of supervisory practices and principles sufficient to provide leadership, foster open communication and teamwork, provide work direction, and evaluate the performance of technical mountain rescue team members.
  • Knowledge of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and its appropriate use in search, rescue, and recovery operations particularly with regard to aviation and mountaineering conditions.
  • Ability to provide emergency medical treatment as a first responder.

Supervisory Controls

Work direction is provided by the Incident Commander, a Division Supervisor, Operations Section Chief, or other designated supervisor.  The work is performed independently in accordance with the Incident Action Plan, or operational directives.  Work is reviewed for acceptability and compliance with operating instructions and procedures.


Procedures for doing the work have been established and a number of specific guidelines or standard orders are available such as oral instructions, standard operating procedures, maps, instructions manuals, and health and safety codes.  Occasional problems may not be specifically covered by guidelines.

The incumbent uses independent judgment in determining the most appropriate guidelines, references and procedures based on the situation at hand, and individual park rules and regulations.


The Technical Mountain Rescue Leader works in and directs a wide variety of functional areas which requires diverse skills, often involving critical lifesaving situations such as technical search and rescue, and emergency medical or aviation incidents.  Emergency response often involves decision-making and action in extremely adverse physical and emotionally challenging conditions and situations.  Technical Mountain Rescue Leaders must possess the ability to function effectively in hazardous, controversial and/or sensitive situations.  Other areas of responsibility such as supervision, safety, etc., require a broad range of administrative skills and knowledge of incident objectives.  Work may require the application and/or modification of established practices, with primary attention and importance given to individual and team safety.  A high degree of individual discretion and judgment is often needed and exercised in mountaineering and emergency situations, particularly given the uncontrolled nature of the mountaineering environment and conditions.

Scope and Effect

The purpose of this position is to lead a team in technical mountain search and rescue operations, to implement incident objectives for a safe operation, and to work for short to extended periods of time when looking for clues or lost subjects during multi operational period incidents.

The Technical Mountain Rescue Leaders decisions and actions impact the safety of self and others, the efficiency of assignments, and the effectiveness and timeliness of mission operations.

Personal Contacts

Personal contacts are primarily associated with local agency search and rescue team personnel or incident management team personnel during the duration of the incident.  Additional contacts, as directed, may be made with media operations, family members, special interest groups, and other interested and assisting with the incident.

Purpose of Contacts

The purpose of contacts is to prepare and present briefings and orders, lead rescue and recovery operations, as well as to relay incident information to and from the incident management team and other team members, and to provide general and specific information and assistance.

Physical Demands

Work routinely involves physically rigorous assignments with highly strenuous activity.  The incumbent must maintain excellent physical condition to carry out responsibilities effectively and safely.  This would include the ability to carry a heavy pack (50 lbs.) over rugged mountainous terrain.  It also includes the ability to  hike and climb in mountainous and desert terrain during inclement weather, to perform lengthy search, rescue and recovery missions, and to perform assignments often in remote areas of steep, hazardous terrain, at high altitude accessible only by helicopter, or on foot or skis.  These routine and emergency situations often require clear reasoning and decisive action under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress.

Work Environment

Work environment is predominately outdoors and may occur during a variety of weather or uncontrolled conditions that include:  mountainous and wilderness terrain; night or day assignments; and inclement weather with potential for subfreezing temperatures, high winds, intense precipitation and whiteouts.  Assignments may extend for prolonged periods of time.  Travel may be by foot, ski, snowshoe, vehicle, aircraft or boat.  The incumbent is subject to cold, hot, windy, wet or snowy conditions for several days at a time.  Working elevations range from below sea level to above 20,320 feet.


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