Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I volunteered for ORMS (Old Rag Mountain Stewards) on Sunday and PATC TP(Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Trail Patrol) on Monday.
I was not on the mountain on Saturday but the ORMS members who were played a pivotal role in the backcountry response for an injured hiker.
Check out the ORMS web site for a picture and description.
As both a member of ORMS and PATC I am thankful for all the great training and support provided by Shenandoah National Park, Shenandoah Mountain Guides, and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the equipment provided by the Shenandoah National Park Trust. These things are invaluable for myself and other volunteers to be our best when providing backcountry medical responses.
While unusual for me I arrived late. Jeremy and Valerie had already been driven up to Old Rag Shelter so that they could return the litter to the emergency cache at Byrds Nest Shelter. Since I knew they would have the Saddle Trail covered I headed up the Ridge Trail.
The weather was partly cloudy and not too hot. A nice day with quite a bit of traffic.
At the last camping spot on the Ridge Trail I met a large backcountry camping group just about to start hiking out. They pointed out a large trash bag hung in a tree that was not theirs and helped me pick up the camp site and destroy a fire ring (also not theirs) before leaving. I told them I would carry the trash bag out on one of my days on the mountain in the meantime it was pretty much out of sight and hung up away from most wildlife.
I spotted the following interesting looking caterpillar near the top of the Ridge Trail switch backs just below the were the No Camping Beyond This sign is located. This caterpillar is most likely a member of the Swallowtail species just before pupation. Earlier in their lives they are green not dark brown. The eye spots, blue spots, gold collar and body shape are also present when they are green.


Looking back at the first false summit from around the corner of the top of the Chute.

OOPS this picture is out of order. Looking back at the first false summit from just below the cave.

Looking down the Ridge Trail from the summit as sunset approaches.

This large group watched the sunset from the summit but were very well equipped for their hike out in the dark.
On my way out under headlamp in the dark just past the fire road intersection I encountered two young men with no lights heading up the Weakley Fire Road.

Earlier in the day at the top of the chute these same two boys had been very concerned about time/darkness. When I asked if they were in the upper or lower lot they said upper lot and I told them they would make it before dark. I did not realize that by upper lot they meant the upper lot above White Oak Canyon or Berry Hollow. They were going down the Ridge Trail and I was going up at the time.
End Of Flashback

When they first saw my headlamp they yelled up the road in the dark "BOY ARE WE GLAD TO SEE YOU!" They wanted to know if they were going the correct direction to get to the parking lot. After figuring out they meant Berryhollow parking lot I walked back with them to the fire road intersection and made sure they got headed down the Berrryhollow Fire Road and also gave them an inexpensive little LED thumb light to help them light their way.

When I first arrived I heard reports of a young man having a terrible time with painful legs and feet. Members of his party who had come out before him wanted to know if I could open the gate and let them drive up the fire road to pick him up. Unfortunately this can not be done. If you are non-ambulatory we can call for the equivalent of an ambulance. If you are ambulatory and we feel you are at risk of becoming non-ambulatory we can help escort you out. Keep in mind that while all this help is wonderful you should plan as though this is a self-rescue mountain because it may actually be. I was able to walk up and meet the young man and the members of his hiking group that were assisting him out just below the metal bridge on the Weakley Fire Road. I could tell by the limping, wincing, involuntary inhales and restrained cries of pain that the young man was in a lot of pain. He was having a particularly hard time when the slope of the road became steeper. His Dad and I thought about finding a sturdy branch so he could sit on it between his Dad and I while we carried him out but the courageous young fellow insisted on making it on his own power.

After escorting this party slowly out I headed up the Ridge Trail. I decided to only do an up and back to the first false summit with the remainder of my day.

Looking up the Ridge Trail just before sunset. A low cloud cover had enveloped the mountain.
(Double click and use slider for higher resolution.)

Spread out over the next hour (17:00-18:00) while I was in the switch backs three parties passed me going upward at various levels of fast. The first was a lone hiker doing the circuit for the first time but he was well equipped with lights and other essentials. The second was a group of two also on the mountain for the first time and without lights. The last was a trail runner with no lights but who said they had done the trail many times and knew they would be out before dark.
I have been seeing a lot of toads in the early evening.
This fellow was doing some free solo rock climbing just below the first false summit. Given his excellent footwear (rock climbing shoe wearers eat your heart out) and the fact it was fairly low angle I am sure this route was well below his grade level. I must confess that when I tried to get another picture it caused him to make a very risky and VERY dynamic last move to his next large ledge. He is happy to report that the strange giant monster with the bright flashing thing did not eat him.

I was packing my car in the dark when the two hikers I had seen earlier in the switchbacks exited the Ridge Trail in the dark. We were talking about the day in the parking lot when about ten minutes later the lone hiker came out under headlamp on the Weakley Fire Road. The lone hiker reported that the trail runner had passed him on the fire road below Old Rag Shelter and that given their speed they were clearly going to make it out before dark. I gave the lone hiker a ride to his car in the lower lot. Our three vehicles were the last ones to leave the two parking lots.

Hornet Warning
There is a large garbage bag sized zip lock bag hung up like a bear bag near the last camping spot on the Ridge Trail. It is full of trash. I was about to lower it so I could carry it out when I noticed a lot of hornets both in the bag and flying to and from the bag. I used my sharpie to write a warning note about bees and left it under the rope lashes. Unless the hornets disappear I think the task of carrying this out can wait for colder weather. It is well out of sight and obviously out of reach of most wildlife.

Another great weekend on the mountain.

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