Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The last weekend on the mountain for 2011...

The Old Rag Mountain Stewards wrapped up another very successful year on the mountain on Sunday, November 13.. (a complete wrap up report will be available by mid-December..)

This is the conclusion of the fourth year of the ORMS program! How the time has flown and how things have changed!!!

It's hard to say just what impact our volunteers have had on the visitor experience to Old Rag. With exponential increases in the levels of visitorship over the past several years, the negative impact to the trails, plants and rocks themselves is very noticeable.. despite volunteer efforts!

Beyond the ecological and educational focus, the part of the program visitors are more likely to receive favorably... is the "enhanced" first response capability that the ORMS program brings to Shenandoah National Park.....

Operating much as the National Ski Patrol does at snowsports areas, ORMS volunteers are always training for emergency situations which are specific to Old Rag.

The final weekend involved a lot of visitor outreach, an amazing amount of high level technical training and the construction of a "highline" for load transfer and difficult rescue scenarios.. definitely memorable training for all participants and spectators alike!!

This is also the time of year when receive a lot of inquiries about "how to become and Mountain Steward".

The first step is to contact us... express your interest and tell us a bit about yourself...
The second step is , after you have been vetted, is to join us for a few days of "hike along" training on the mountain.. Following a successful "hike along season" , you will then be invited to join the Stewards for their formal training programs... and that is when it really gets going!
(all imagery courtesy ORMS Anne R.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

For November 5 and 6...

(as posted on Hiking Upward)
For all of you researching this site in preparation for a hike this weekend, Nov 5-6. The trails in the shadows and on the NW side of the mountain are very treacherous with packed snow and ice. While the daytime temperatures have been rising above freezing, the longer nights are well below 32.
The result is midwinter trail conditions.... with the very high visitation that always occurs in Fall. Old Rag has been and will be colder than wherever you are coming from.

As you are aware, or should be if you are not, a slip and fall in the scramble can have very significant consequences. Ice and snow exacerbate those slippery conditions. .. and a fall can result not only in a physical injury but a long cold wait for help.. Remember those who respond to accidents also have to deal with the ice and snow.

Please, if you are planning a circuit hike of Old Rag this weekend, bring along traction devices for your feet.. NOT crampons.. but something along the way of Kahtoola Micro-spikes... Dress in layers, bring water and a high energy snack, and as always, use your best judgment.. give yourself permission to have a really nice day.. If you are not 100% comfortable when you begin moving past the first false summit to start the scramble.. then by all means enjoy the first false summit and head back down the Ridge Trail...

We hope you have a memorable and safe hiking day on Old Rag!

Friday, September 2, 2011

FALL.. (finally!)

..and the orange shirts are back on Old Rag!
Historically, our very busiest time of year..the mountain is full of folks taking advantage of cooler temperatures to come see the changing colors of the leaves! A spectacular experience indeed!
In the interest of making your trip more enjoyable and memorable (because of a good experience) please remember a couple of things:

- With the cooler days and changing seasons, it also means that the days are shorter.. and while 8.00pm was still light a month ago, now, it's anything but. Remember to start your hike a bit earlier than you would in the summer, and also, BRING A LIGHT SOURCE. The trails are well marked, so it needn't be huge or heavy, usually just a lightweight LED/flashlight is adequate.. but a headlamp is best.

- Even though it's cooler and you may not FEEL like you are perspiring as much, your body will still lose a fair amount of fluid while hiking (this holds true throughout the winter as well). we have more dehydrated folks in Fall than any other time! Continue to bring 2-3 liters of water per person while hiking Old Rag.

-For those of you hiking in large groups, especially with children, use the buddy system, and have designated meet up points about every mile or so. This will help avoid the issues, worries and stress of separated parties.. those are no fun for anyone

-with the changing seasons comes changing weather.. be ready for it. This usually is experienced in two ways:
THUNDERSTORMS.. while it may be memorable, Old Rag summit is NOT the place to be during a lightening event!
and COOLER , BREEZIER conditions on the summit.. usually 10-15 degrees cooler than where you came from.. DRESS IN LAYERS, and bring layers..

-and lastly, if this is your first hike on Old Rag. don't feel sheepish about asking either the Park Service staff at the contact station or any of the Mountain Stewards you may encounter for information or advice.. it is always easier to prevent issues than solve them.


If you are really tired by the time you reach the first "summit", consider just enjoying the day there and heading down the same way you came up... (at that point you are only about 25% of the way thru the hike)

We look forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Show and Tell..

Today, Lead Stewards Chad and Andy (both natives of Rappahannock County) did the first public presentation about the Old Rag Mountain Steward program to the Rappahannock County Historical Society.. Program background, program successes, pictures and more pictures.. all about Old Rag..and the Stewards. a GREAT program with GREAT results. .. ended with a quick demo of how basic mechanical advantages expedite technical rescue.

If you or a group you are a part of would like to schedule a presentation, choose a few dates, and drop us a line.. We'll try to get you on the schedule.. I'm sure it'll be a hot ticket!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mid-Season,Peak Spring Season

train, plan, rehearse, execute, debrief.... train, plan, rehearse, execute, debrief..

Well, that time of year has arrived! The mountain is full of life! flowers, plants, animals, visitors.. We shall never tire of hearing a first-time hiker's exclamations when arriving at the summit!
And for the Stewards, it's ALWAYS a thrill to be there! (every time I reach the summit, usually more than 30 times per year, I still feel that very same way... WOW!)

Mid-season, we are always busy training and talking with visitors, and sharing cool info about both Old Rag and our program.... and of course when our assistance is needed by a visitor, we are happy to be there and are ready to serve.
From learning about the plants native to the thin soils of Old Rag to being able to use a map and compass with significant accuracy, from basic knot tying to sophisticated techniques of ascending and descending with rope.. it's all for a higher level of professionalism..

To work on Old Rag as a Steward means to be able to act and react as needed. It may be a rare flower being crushed by off trail hiking... and then it may also be a matter of life or death.

"I wanted to thank everyone involved for the fantastic job they did in getting Dave stabilized and up to the helicopter. Everyone was incredibly collected, professional, and thinking ahead at every single step as a team on how best to help Dave. I want to particularly thank the first responders, Jeremy and his partner, who got Dave stabilized and followed through until he was off the ground.
..he had surgery on his ankle last night, which appears to have gone well, and his is undergoing surgery this morning for a fractured pelvis. He also has a fractured elbow. I don't know of any other injuries beyond those - -Thanks again for a job well done."

"Dear Old Rag Mountain Stewards (Jeremy and the Gang of Orange Shirts),
I just wanted to write and tell you how much we appreciated your help yesterday. You got there so quick and did such a good job of helping to take care of Dave and helicopter him to safety. It is hard for me to believe how quickly you got there and how much help you were once you arrived. We could not have gotten him to safety with out you folks, the NPS rangers, and the very helpful set of hikers from DC whose help was so important.
Dave is doing well. He has a compound left ankle fracture, a broken pelvis and a elbow fracture, but no other injuries that we are aware off. He was in surgery last night at Fairfax for the ankle and this morning for the pelvis.
Thanks again for all of your help."

It was indeed remarkable how quickly Jeremy and his partner arrived, and as you say it couldn't have happened if they had not already been on the mountain and with pre-positioned equipment. I don't know if this was standard procedure or just lucky timing, but in either regard I'm thankful.
I've never participated in a rescue before, but I can imagine how much training it must take for different possible scenarios. .. I can't think of anything that could have been done better.
With deep gratitude,"

photo courtesy of ORMS Anne R.

(So please don't use the green box as a potty..it's not. It holds our gear!!)

train, plan, rehearse, execute, debrief.... train, plan, rehearse, execute, debrief..

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A National Treasure??

If this is such a special place, special enough to often have more than 2,000 hikers per day...
Why do we find this stuff all over the place???
Out of sight???.. only for the user of this bottle.
Come on folks.. once it's empty, it's light to carry out!

YES... that is a pile of used toilet paper about 2 ft off the trail near the summit!

One persons Narnia sign is another's graffiti... You gotta ask yourself are more signs really needed or wanted? or are they just fun for YOU?

Ahhh.... food and water how considerate! and lovely, too!NOT!
(A fed bear is a dead bear! who do you think eats these scraps???)

Trail mix. (see comment above)

Not to mention stripped saplings, hacked up trees, new, unauthorized trails that are eroding the mountainside like crazy. Come on folks! We can do better!!!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Raining and Training...

I guess I need to look more on the sunny side of life..
But unfortunately, I read and watch and listen to the weather forecast... especially before heading to the mountains for a day on Old Rag... you can too! right here! So when we received more than 6 inches of rain in an afternoon, and had active tornado warnings in place (not watches), and the high temperature for the day was only in the 40s... how suprised do you think the Stewards were when folks came off the summit dressed in shorts, short sleeved shirts and borderline hypothermic?
Shocked and speechless were close.... another group from VA Tech was "camping" near the summit... though their gear was virtually destroyed by the weather, wind and rain... They were not having fun.
Here are two pictures... the first one is of the small waterfall below the old upper parking lot at normal spring levels...

...the second is from Saturday afternoon.. In addition to cold temperatures and high winds, and a flooded access road... Not an ideal day to introduce someone to the joys of hiking Old Rag..

I forgot to mention, there were no views beyond treetop level in the parking lot..

The next time this is the forecast, I'm sure we'll see someone in a kayak or C1 looking for a first descent from PO Junction...

That is assuming ANYONE bothers to check the forecast..

This past week found nine of the Stewards in NE Alabama training with the National Park Service's Eastern High Angle Rescue Course. Five Stewards were instructors and four were first-time students...
continuing to advance the reputation of unsurpassed professionalism of Stewards on the

New Stewards in action at Little River Canyon AL...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2011 .. First Weekend.. Capital Hiking Club...shame!!

It's so good to get back out on the mountain!
This year we're a month earlier than our historical start.. primarily due to the change in heavy visitation weekends... it keeps getting earlier and earlier!

We've been chomping at the bit to get going... and finally, the weekend arrived.
So this year we started... in the snow! And despite the slippery conditions, there were still plenty of visitors...
You know with a mountain as popular (in other words..crowded) as Old Rag, you see a lot of interesting things (read: destructive resource abuse) from visitors. Pooping and peeing right on the trail, breaking and pulling up plants, short-cutting switchbacks... vandalism of all types..lack of preparedness..... and basically non compliance with all of the principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) and in general most Park Service regulations that pertain to Old Rag Mountain.

Rarely, however, do the folks who are making the most impact leave their calling card.... until this weekend.

The good folks at the CAPITAL HIKING CLUB, I guess didn't get the word about all those pesky guidelines and regulations.. Showing up in several large buses... hiking in multiple LARGE groups, substituting (several) graffitti signs for adequate trip leadership..... I would expect much better from a prominant(?) hiking club.

I guess the blue blazes, the deeply rutted trail, and copious signage just aren't enough...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Training

With our "official" season beginning next weekend, the Stewards trained this past weekend to prepare for all sorts of possibilities.. This year's training focus was on providing first response care.
Trust me... these are the guys you want to find on Old Rag if you need help!

.. and to enhance the reality of our training, we even had really cold temperatures (in the teens), and snow... BOTH of which are possibilities in the mountains thru May! BE PREPARED!

Our instructor for the course was Marco Yuracheck from SOLO in NH. The training he provided was OUTSTANDING.. since he was able to offer it from the perspective as both the care giver and the victim..

(He suffered a major(near fatal) climbing accident locally, and he was able to provide some very unique insights to the effect of quality of care and rescuer actions on the patient... Helping us to again, and as always, provide the highest level of training and readiness possible for our Stewards.)

A very bad day rock climbing .. for both the climber, and the belayer!

In a couple of weeks, 8 of the Stewards will be training in Alabama for High Angle Technical rescues.. another level of training indeed!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011 Spring Training weekend

Our annual training weekend will soon be upon us and the start of the 2011 season is not far behind!
Now is the time for all of you who have expressed an interest in the program to get in touch with me so I can get the latest information on the training weekend..

Join us!

Make a difference in the Old Rag visitor experience... all the while enhancing your own!!

If you are interested in "stewarding" please drop me a line, even if you have already done so..