ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Local search and rescue crews have an extra set of eyes during their mountain rescues, thanks to some volunteers from Sandia National Labs. By day, Craig Tenney is a chemical engineer at the labs, but by night, he helps rescue lost and injured hikers.
“After you’ve hiked six miles uphill, you really don’t want to turn around, so people keep trying to push higher and higher and I guarantee you, mountains don’t get easier the higher you go,” said Tenney. “Frequently this time of year, we’ll be going out to rescue people within a half-mile of finishing the trail.”
After a few months of intense “basic training” for area terrain, Tenney joined the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council. Years later, he is now serves as president. When a 911 call comes in for a hiker lost in the dark or stuck in snowy conditions near the peak, the volunteer group gets the call to help.
“The weather gets nice down here in the city but for all practical purposes, it’s still winter up on top of the mountain,” said Tenney. “The thing about wilderness search and rescue is oftentimes conditions when you’re going out to find somebody are less than ideal.”
Tenney’s not the only lab employee making these rescue missions. Right now, about a dozen scientists and engineers at Sandia National Labs volunteer with the council, bringing their own, analytical skill set to the wilderness.
“When it comes time to figure out technical rope work and pulleys and forces and vectors and all that sort of physics, you can tell who the Sandians in the room are,” said Tenney. “The Sandians tend to be the ones that think in terms of the physics and the math.”
While Sandia employees make up about a quarter of the council, Tenney says people from all different backgrounds are a big part of those mountain rescues. The council has around 40 members from all over the community. “The healthcare community provides a lot of people, they bring their special skills,” said Tenney. “Former military is also a large provider of people.”
Tenney’s not quitting his day job anytime soon. However, he says this good cause in his spare time, is a mission he’s happy to be a part of. “You’re out there helping people. It is oftentimes a challenging situation but you’re out there with friends and teammates,” said Tenney. “It’s the good cause and combined goals and all working together to achieve that.”