Get to Know SAR Volunteer KC Bess

 KC in his swiftwater gear at the SAR Hangar.

KC in his swiftwater gear at the SAR Hangar.

TCSAR: Can you tell us about where you grew up and your family?
KC: Sure. I grew up in the desert near St. George, Utah in a town called Ivins. I played a little bit of sports as a kid. I wrestled a little bit, but mostly skateboarded. It was a pretty small town, so we had guns and grew up running around in the desert and trying to stay out of the house. My parents and one brother still live in Ivins. We go down a couple of times a year to see them. I’ve got 4 brothers and 1 sister and they all still live in Utah. I see most of them a couple of times a year at least, which is nice. 

TCSAR: How did you end up leaving Utah?
KC: I initially left to go to Australia and I did a church mission down there for 2 years. When I came back, I came up to Jackson with a bunch of friends on vacation and wanted to climb the mountains. So I started looking for a job for the next summer and I wanted to drive the ferry boat across Jenny Lake. I thought I would get to live in a little cabin right there on the lake and that was my whole goal (laughs). But thankfully that didn’t work out and I got a job at Mad River. I took their guide school and got hired out of that. That was in 2002 so this is my 15th summer with them. 

 KC with his wife, Mary.

KC with his wife, Mary.

TCSAR: And now you manage Mad River, right?
KC: So my wife, Mary, and I are the managers. She’s the general manager, so she’s my boss technically, but we kind of just run it together. She’s been the GM since 2006 and I’ve been a manager since the summer of 2007. 

TCSAR: Did you meet your wife at Mad River?
KC: Yeah. We met there. It was weird, the first year we were both there but I don’t remember her at all from the first year. We didn’t hang out, which is really weird since it’s such a tight group of people. Anyways, I was kind of in shell-shock coming from Utah into the whole guiding scene (laughs). It was a little different so I pretty much just observed the whole first summer. And then after that we started dating and got married at the end of the next summer, in 2004. We have two kids. Sophie is turning 9 this month and Henry will be turning 2.  

 KC, Mary, Sophie and Henry.

KC, Mary, Sophie and Henry.

TCSAR: Do you have any other hobbies?
KC: It’s a little harder to find the time with work and kids, but I really like climbing and getting up into the mountains. I still like to go trail running and mountain biking. I do a lot of rafting, just recreationally other places on a week-long trip here and there. I used to do a lot of photography as well but just haven’t since we’ve had kids. I just don’t have time enough to relax to do that and get creative about it (laughs) - it’s just a rushed occurrence. I like to travel a lot too. We’ve been able to go down to New Zealand 3 or 4 times for 3 months with our daughter. Because of our jobs, we can work remotely in the winter. My buddy is a beekeeper down there so I went down to help him with the harvest and Mary was able to work and our daughter just kind of hung out. We went to Australia a year ago. I can think of a long list of places I still want to go.  

TCSAR: We’ve been told you like food a lot. 
KC: I like sugar a lot. I don’t really discriminate though. I like to eat. If I don’t have food it usually becomes necessary to get some very quickly. 

TCSAR: What inspired you to join Search and Rescue?
KC: I started working with some of the people who volunteer here and I started teaching swiftwater rescue to the Mad River guides. And  then through that eventually started teaching it to the public and got to know Jake first (Jake Urban is the training director for TCSAR) and then Jess (Jess is the Sheriff’s Office coordinator for TCSAR). So just through that - teaching courses. I teach a lot of classes out in California and teach for other rescue agencies and fire guys and stuff and I got interested in the rescue side of things instead of just the recreational stuff. I started looking around and really respected the team here and decided I wanted to join them. I applied initially I think it’s been about 5 years ago but they didn’t bring anybody on for so long that I’d just check in once a year and see if anything had changed. I got lucky to be selected.

TCSAR: What do you like best about being on the team?
KC: I think the best thing is helping people. But it’s exciting to go on a rescue. You never know what it’s going to be. But I think the most unexpected thing was just how close the team is. I kind of figured it was going to be that way, but it’s really been good and I like it. It’s great to have such a really tight crew of people - it’s like having a second family. 

TCSAR: Are there any elements of the training or rescues that you don’t like or that scare you?
KC: Well… Obviously the exciting trainings are more fun than like the ICS or whatever. It’s not that I don’t like those, I think it’s important. There hasn’t been anything I haven’t liked yet. Snow stuff and avalanches - I really respect that - almost to the point of being a little bit scared of it. I don’t feel like I know enough to really mitigate my risks yet. I just stick with people who know.