New ‘backyak’ to save lives
Image: craftvision/iStockphoto

A revolutionary rescue harness created by a Massey University design student could save lives in mountain emergencies.

Wellington industrial design student Nick Graham’s ‘backyak’ is made to carry the weight of a person when one climber has to support another in a mountain emergency.

The harness-like device, which is part of this year’s College of Creative Arts Exposure exhibition of graduating design students’ work, was developed by the 22 year-old as a means of getting climbers affected by altitude sickness back down to safe levels in a rapid descent on the back of another.

The exterior of the rescue harness is comprised of a mix of Cordura and Gore Tex Pro Shell, with an outer layer of 30 millimetres of webbing split into a front and rear compartments, which ’sandwiches’ and supports the patient.

The materials for the harness, which is adjusted with the use of eight buckles, are suited for harsh alpine environments typical of mountaineering, Mr Graham says.

“The reason the harness is different to others is so that it doesn’t tangle and allows for easy set up in stressful conditions when trying to get the patient down.”

Coming from a keen outdoors and mountaineering family, Mr Graham says it was a natural step to want to base his final year industrial design project around one of the main hazards of mountaineering – altitude sickness, and ways to combat it.

“I haven’t experienced altitude sickness personally, but I have heard stories throughout my research about the effects it has on humans. With 70 per cent of climbers getting at least some level of altitude sickness I found there was an opportunity to look into it.”

His design combines elements of existing mountaineering product, and while it still needs refining before being made available to industry, has been enthusiastically supported by the outdoors equipment company Macpac.

Its former owner and company founder, Bruce McIntyre says, “it shows a lot of thinking and a practical way to deal with specific needs at altitude.”

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.