My First PATC Trail Patrol 2013
WINTER ADVICEOLD RAG IS WILDERNESS BACK COUNTRY
PLEASE PLAN, PREPARE, AND BEHAVE ACCORDINGLY!
Folks its winter time on Old Rag. Expect icy conditions. Keep in mind that Old Rag will typically have temperatures around 10 degrees lower than the surrounding lowlands. Even if there is no snow at the Old Rag parking lot you should consider whether you might need to at least carry some type of micro traction devices for your feet. The coldest average temperatures occur around a month after the Winter Solstice or around January 21st. Of course that is just the average. We can have mid-sixty degree weather in January just as we can have snow in April. You can obtain the weather forecast for above 2,000 feet from the SNP website.
FEWER HIKERS AND SNP STAFF AVAILABLE IN WINTER
While there may still be hikers on Old Rag in the winter their numbers are generally greatly reduced. There will be greatly reduced odds that a passing good Samaritan will stop and help. SNP has substantially reduced staffing levels during the winter months.
Rescue teams are not going to respond until conditions are safe for them to do so. Do not expect them to risk the roads or trails in the middle of an all out blizzard. Winter weather conditions means there will be far fewer days on which a non-ambulatory injury can be extracted by helicopter. Non-ambulatory injuries will need to be carried out by humans if the helicopter can not be used. Even in good weather, injuries reported late in the day will often need to shelter in place until the next morning. Are you and your party prepared to shelter in place for the evening? This is back country not a city park. Plan with the thought that you may need to self-rescue. If you and your group can get youself out in less than eight hours there is agood chance it will be your fastest way home. That said, there are park, volunteer, and good Samaritan resources that will respond when they feel it is safe for them to do so. Good rules of thumb for response times during good conditions are, 4-12 hours for first responders to arrive at a non-ambulatory patient's location and 6-24 hours until the patient is loaded into a vehicle for transport to a front country medical facility.
The days are getting longer but they are still fairly short. If you are not prepared and comfortable hiking under a headlamp than pay close attention to your turnaround times relative to when it is going to be dark. You should always have a flashlight or headlamp even when you are not planning on needing them.
If you are a leader responsible for a hiking group please make sure you have a system to keep track of your party members. Old Rag has far too many separated/lost party incidents. Often times the members of these groups are not experienced outdoors persons. They are relying on the safety, knowledge, equipment and skills of your group. Once they become separated, there is a risk that they will not have the knowledge, skill, temperament or equipment needed to stay safe. This will be especially true if the weather changes to a cold rain or wet snow and they need to spend the night outdoors.
Cell phones do not generally work at low elevations in SNP. There are Emergency Phones on the outside of the SNP Contact Stations located in the Old Rag and White Oak Canyon parking lots. If you send a runner out to the phone than it is a good idea to make sure they have as much information about the injured person(s) condition(s), emergency contacts, location as is practical. It is an even better idea to write it all down for them to refer to when they get to the emergency phone.
I provided Bill W. with PATC Trail Patrol "One-On-One" training this weekend. It was a great time!
Another very pretty Old Rag Sunset