Monday, October 18, 2010

Saturday and Sunday
October 16-17, 2010
Helicopter Evacuation
Wilderness Weekend
Shenandoah National Park

SNP hosted PATC at Pinnacles Research Station for Friday and Saturday night. We had a couple of folks staying who were doing trail work both days and the rest of the PATC crew were helping SNP with Wilderness Weekend. My plan was to do Wilderness Weekend outreach and interpretation while doing my two days on Old Rag with the Old Rag Mountain Stewards.

The weather was stupendous. The prior year we had the years first snow during Wilderness Weekend check out my blog posting for Wilderness Weekend 2009 to see how different the weather can be year to year.

Saturday morning I woke up early to catch Old Rag in the sunrise pictured in the next three shots.

I had a great breakfast and meeting with PATC and SNP concerning Wilderness Weekend before heading down to my Old Rag Mountain Steward meeting in the Old Rag parking lot.
The picture below is looking up the Ridge Trail from the first false summit. With fall leaf colors we get large numbers of hikers on Old Rag. My plan was to do Wilderness Weekend interpretation and outreach at some of the back up lines in the rock scramble.
I had done some Wilderness Weekend interpretation in the rock scramble when a radio call about an injury on Old Rag came in. I was at the little cave on the rock scramble and the injury was at R30 or the base of the Chute so I was the closest available team member and able to respond quickly.
As I was motoring up the trail I met a member of the injured hikers party headed downhill in hopes of going for help. I was able to let her know that the incident had somehow already been reported and I and others were starting our response and she could return to her friend with me.
Upon arriving at the incident I found two good Samaritans who happened to have first responder and nursing training helping the patient. Shortly after that a father who was a Doctor and his son who was an EMT where able to provide help with assessment.
There are a lot of folks who help in these responses. Many thanks to all of you who helped on Saturday.
Within around an hour the rest of ORMS team and initial SNP response resources arrived with lots of medical supplies and technical rescue equipment. Within ORMS and the SNP there are individuals with months and months of training and first response experience. I was really glad to see more highly trained members of the team when they arrived.
The injury was significant and the location it took place is arguably the most remote in terms of the time it takes to get a patient off the mountain. Because of high winds it seemed that we were not going to be able use a helicopter evacuation and we initiated the long process of doing a carryout. A carryout from this location can take eight to fifteen hours and requires a lot of human exertion and technical rescue rope work. Just as we had the patient secured in the liter and the ropes set up for the first and most significant lift the winds died down. Given the nature of the injury and the fact the winds had died down the response team was able to switch plans and execute a helicopter lift out from just a short ways below the chute near a rock formation called Atlas aka Whale Rock. Since Silver Spring Wanderer did such a good write up I am going to refer you to that blog and post some pictures I was able to sneak in during a couple rare seconds that I was not busy with response duties.

Patient responders and patient's friends at the incident scene. At this particular moment the patient's friends had to give responders room to do their work but they were of tremendous help during the incident. Many kudos to the patient for her grit, courage, good spirits and ability to help deal with a very difficult situation. She did not volunteer for her position but even with her limitations she was a great member of the response team.
The next pictures are all of the helicopter extraction using a Billy Pugh Basket. The pictures are not in chronological order.

All the black specs in the picture are from the leaves that were being blown up off the ground from the helicopter's down-wash and as it happens some gusting wind that decided to start up just as the victim was getting loaded in the basket.

The next day ORMS spent the very first part of our day resupplying and resetting all our search and rescue emergency equipment and then spent the rest of our day training and providing our non-emergency services to the natural resource and park visitors.
As you can tell from the following picture of Mt Robertson from Old Rag's Saddle Trail that it was another wonderful fall day. The colors were still not at peak on Mt Robertson but by mid November the leaves will almost all be on the ground.


  1. RSL and ORMS nice work up there on Saturday. Thanks again for all the time you put in up on that mountain.

  2. RSL if you have any nice shots of the Helocopter working and you want to share, the Park Police is looking for some good photos to enlarge, frame and hang in thier offices. alanbwill at g mail.