Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A large part of the Old Rag Mountain Steward program is interacting with people.. from aiding those in need, to helping hikers and climbers understand how fragile the mountain's flora can be (especially when tromping around off-trail), offering wilderness living tips to those who are venturing out overnight for the first time, and being a resource of advanced skills for anyone interested. The result is the same.. a more informed enthusiast for this amazing resource.

This past weekend, with a Sunday visitation approaching 2,000 it was good to see our friend and neighbor David C. on one of his frequent trips up the mountain.. And it was also a pleasure to meet a follower of this blog from Richmond VA... and she had a great question... "How do you go about contacting one of the stewards ("the orange shirts") on the mountain if you need them?"

This is how...
On any given weekend on Old Rag during the "busy season" there are usually 4-8 stewards "orange shirts" on the mountain...usually traveling in 2-3 groups. Accompanying each group is an NPS radio, on which all Shenandoah National Park communications traffic is monitored.
If you find yourself in need of assistance, head either up or down the mountain, keep your eyes open and ask others where the nearest Old Rag Mountain Steward is... If you are near the bottom, go to the Fee station at either White Oak Canyon or Old Rag (Nethers) and we can be contacted via park communications... Normally, a group of stewards can be readily located between the summit and the Byrds Nest, where we keep our gear.

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When stewards are not on the mountain, (December- April, August) and an accident requiring medical assistance occurs, it can often require up to 18 hours or more (and the help of 25 rescuers) to receive definitive care in a controlled environment.. With the stewards on the mountain, that time can be slashed to 9 hours (which is still a long time... but it beats 18..)

Due to the rugged, and fairly unforgiving nature of Old Rag, ( when something happens, it's too late to learn what to do) a large portion of each weekend's time is spend refreshing basic rescue and first aid skills. You will find even the most experienced stewards participating in this training.

The goal is that when the NPS rescue team arrives the ORMS mesh seemlessly with the NPS professionals... a goal we are meeting nicely.

"Thank you (Rangers Scully and Martinelli)again for all you did to get me safely off the mountain on Sunday. I am still astonished at the Herculean efforts you and all the others so calmly put forth to rescue me. I can only wonder what would have happened if you had not responded and I had tried in my shock and daze to climb back out. I will be grateful forever.
Fortunately, the damage to my head will heal and no harm occurred to myskeleton. The hospital staff cleared me on Sunday night, I rested, and today I went to work and am almost feeling like normal again...
(stewards)Chad and Matt were terrific. I have to say it took a real leap of faith to allow strangers to tote and sometimes haul me by ropes over a rocky mountain on a litter, but my husband and I felt totally reassured by their professional demeanor. Chad was calm, kind, and knowledgeable, and took extra care at the outset of the hauling maneuvers and throughout the journey off the mountain to ensure that everyone understood each step of the drill and didn't rush. His behavior kept me calm and allayed my greatest fear -- that someone else would get hurt in trying to help me. In addition to everything else, Matt made at least two trips that I remember up and down the mountain to locate necessary items. I just can't thank them enough. The Old Rag Mountain Stewards is an incredible program. "

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Early October.. Back on the Mountain

The low Autumn sun provides a great profile view of Old Rag across Virginia's Piedmont.
(photo by steward Ben M.)