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I joined a crew of a couple dozen or so members of the Potomac Mountain Club (PATC-MS) for their 75th anniversary celebrations at Seneca Rocks. I unfortunately missed out on their DC area celebrations in the days leading up to this event, which also included an alumni and history night with Jan Conn at Hearst Hall and climbing at Carderock, but I was glad to be able to join the group at Seneca, even if Jan Conn wasn’t there.
Saturday morning about a dozen of us met at the top of the stairmaster for a complimentary class on litter rescue technique offered by Tom Cecil of Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides. The Club donated a few 100-meter static rocks for rescue a few years back, and Tom offered to show the Club the ropes when it comes to litter rescue for our contribution.
There are PATC-MS climbers at Seneca pretty much every decent weather weekend, so it makes sense to have more people with a basic understanding who could provide a helping hand should something terrible happen.
Seneca has a number of first aid caches, litters, and rescue gear stashed around the mountain, and unfortunately, there have been a number of accidents over the years at Seneca, including some fatal ones.
In our case, we were learning how to assist with moving an incapacitated climber back down to the road in case of an accident. Seneca features lots of ledges on the climbs, so falls that result in broken legs, ankles, etc are certainly realistic scenarios.
Tom took us to the top of a steep cliff band near the “Little Hillary Step” where we could simulate horizontal and vertical litter lowers… It is quite a convoluted process to rig up, involving numerous cordelettes, two static ropes belaying the litter and climbers down, bowlines to connect the litter, Bachmanns to control the length of rope between the rescue personnel and the litter, lashing in the victim, and much more.
We started out with lowering the victim in a vertical manner and ran through that twice before doing the horizontal litter lower, which is what you would use for victims with head/neck trauma, etc. I mostly observed and helped with the belay—figured I should leave the major stuff to Club members who weren’t moving out of town in just a few months—but I still picked up a lot in terms of what it takes to move someone down a mountain.
According to Tom, in his 25 years at Seneca they have only needed to lower someone down a cliff in this manner about 2 or 3 times, since (for better or worse) people usually end up at the base of the crag where they just need to be transported down talus, boulders, and less technical terrain.
After running through the vertical litter scenarios we then turned to transporting someone from the base of the crag back down to the trail/road where they could be received by medical personnel. We strapped Dave into the litter—he’s not a small guy—and six of us clipped into the litter as we were lowered down the hillside.
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Even with the 100-meter ropes it still took three lowers or so to return. I learned that it really sucks to have to bring someone down, though perhaps not as terrible as I thought it might be, and that I hope to never have to actually do it in a real scenario.
But, if I do, I feel confident that I could be a competent part of the team and know the general process and procedure—which was the intent of our one-day course. Thanks go to PATC-MS for the opportunity and of course to Tom Cecil for offering his time and knowledge.
Following the rescue litter course we returned back to town for the 75th anniversary celebrations for PATC at the Gendarme (Seneca Rocks Climbing School). We had a barbecue and cookout with club members, some of whom were out climbing that day as well.
There was an American Alpine Club table set up and a raffle for Newbies for Boobies which aims to raise money to fight breast cancer. All good fun. Following the cookout, we had some live music from the awesome jam band Zen, who regularly perform at Seneca. I managed to score a sweet AAC hoodie from the raffle.
Sunday I headed out with Dave to climb something… We are both new leaders who wanted to hop on something easy. Unfortunately, Seneca was crazy busy as is to be expected in October.
We went from easy line to easy line before finally settling on just waiting for Old Man’s (5.3). The three pitch climb took all day basically because of the crowd ahead of us. We swapped leads and made it to the summit ledge in the early afternoon before having to rap down and head out.
All-in-all another fun Seneca weekend! I’m sad that my days at Seneca are coming to an end—it’s such a great community and vibe… The Potomac Mountain Club is an awesome crew and an incredible deal too, which I’d encourage any climbers in the Mid-Atlantic to check out.
For the $15 annual membership you get access to an awesome, active local climbing community with regular trips all over the area—and the membership more than pays for itself by just going to one of their big group trips to Seneca: free group campsite at Seneca Shadows, free food and drink, and maybe even a raffle prize… What’s not to like?
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