Five members of the Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue Team (SBCSAR) completed a week long trip to Machu Picchu, Peru, earlier this month, where they taught technical rope rescue skills to dozens of local emergency personnel.

SBCSAR team members Rick Stein, Brian Bass, Kerry Valvidiezo, Charles Gelinas and Kevin Hess made the 4,500-mile trip to the sacred site near the Inca Bridge, where they volunteered their time and expertise to train 44 people from three agencies, plus members of the Machu Picchu Pueblo community.

This was the fourth consecutive year that Stein has traveled to Machu Picchu to volunteer his time and skills to teach basic knots, anchors, rope rescue systems, stretcher packaging and rigging, repelling and stretcher tending.

While there, team members also arranged for a local doctor to teach first responder first aid to the students.

Team members also were able to help facilitate, with the assistance of the mayor of Machu Picchu Pueblo, the formation of a volunteer unified search and rescue team for the first time in the history of the area.

About $10,000 worth of equipment was left with the newly unified SAR team, which was donated by CMC Rescue Inc. of Santa Barbara and SBCSAR. The donated equipment also included backpacks and helmets donated by REI.

SBCSAR plans to continue its support of the local rescue personnel around Machu Picchu next year by focusing on much-needed swift water rescue techniques and working to acquire the necessary equipment during the following year to equip the responders around the Machu Picchu area.

— Drew Sugars is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.