Monthly Archives: July 2015

Zermatt Day Hike – A few years ago

This is the Matterhorn (not my photo):


This is the view from the summit (my photo), Monta Rosa is the massive on the upper right:


On the way up.  Local Guides repairing (gulp) a standing rope:


Photo of me on the summit.


My tent in the Zermatt Campground, next to the train station:


This is on the path to the glacier crossing to the Hutte on the Monta Rosa:


This is looking back from Monta Rosa to that same path.  You can barely make out the path on the upper left side of the photo:


Here’s me crossing that glacier on a different trip: (notice my really cool red pants)

One last glacier to cross

Photo of me on a different Monte Rosa Climb, I ran out of gas and DNS (did not summit), should have worn the red pants!  That ‘pointy mountain in the center background is the Matterhorn.

Phil comes out into the sun

Phil comes out into the sun

Rich (Geardog) crossing the glacier, Monte Rosa background left, I believe he summited, although I wasn’t there.

Rich Pedersen crossing the glacier

Rich Pedersen crossing the glacier

The Over Mountain Group – OMG

The Over Mountain Group was founded on 15 July 2015 to recognize backpackers who have endured exceptionally poor weather and trail conditions, while backpacking, for at least five or more nights.

OMG members are authorized to wear  the distinctive bandana of white edelweiss on a dark blue background or background of their choice, embroidered with the letters O.M.G..

The Edelweiss is the internationally recognized symbol of those who travel on foot in the mountains.

The name Over Mountain Group was inspired by the Overmountain Men.  The Overmountain Men were American frontiersmen from west of the Appalachian Mountains who took part in the American Revolutionary War.

The six founding members are Drag’n, Purl, Buff, Pyro, Gunny, and Suds.

Roan Mountain A.T. Section Hike 12-17 July 2015

Before I get started, here are some basic recommendations that are probably common knowledge, but I wanted to list them anyway.

1. When you arrive at your camp, put your tent up first.  Pick a spot that avoids rain runoff as much as possible.  Don’t pick a mud soaked spot if you can help it, the muddy wet ground could indicate a very low spot that will collect water in a heavy rainfall.

A grassy spot is great, a spot with leaves is good.. a bare spot will splatter your tent with mud in a driving rain.

Look up and avoid overhead dead branches that could land on your tent in heavy winds.

Then put you stuff either in your tent or next to it.

2. Then find the spring and filter your water.

3. Keep a full water bottle near your tent in the event rain forces you to take cover in the tent.  Then you’ll have water to cook with under your vestibule.

4.  Change out of you wet clothes when you get to camp and into your dry set.  Better yet, try to wear your wet clothes dry, i.e. try to use your body heat to dry your clothes.  This is assuming better weather and dew point.  ALWAYS keep one set of dry clothes to change into and try to protect at all costs!

5.  You may have to put your previous day’s wet clothes on in the morning to hike in, suck it up.  Don’t use your only dry set of clothes – remember – keep that for camp.

6.  Don’t put on dry socks when you get to camp and then put your feet into your wet boots, or you’ll have another pair of wet socks.  One technique is to cover your dry socks with some sort of plastic bag, then put on your wet boots.

7.  Your colorful, new, and expensive pack rain cover probably will not keep all the water off or out of your pack.  Try using a large, thick plastic industrial trash bag inside your pack to keep your sleeping bag/clothes bag/mattress wrapped in.  Also, think about getting a box of  5 each 2.5 gallon extra large zip-lock bags from the Dollar Store as an extra layer of waterproofing for your stuff.  Use one of these large bags in the top pocket of your pack where you’re probably carrying a lot of you electronics and nav-aids.

8.  Hang your bear bag before it gets dark.  Use a cord with a slick finish so it lessens the chances of getting snagged.  Think about investing in a bear canister.  Heavy, but extremely convenient.

Avoid using a carabiner to attach you bear cord to the little bag with a rock in it you’re trying to toss over a tree branch.  The carabiner could get snagged.  Just tie a knot.  Why are you carrying a carabiner(s) anyway?  They just add weight, you’re not rock climbing.  Use a knot.

9.  Learn a few basic knots, for God’s sake!  Isn’t it about time?

10.  Bring a large zip lock for your trash.

11.  Bring a real fucking map, and hey, try to learn how to read it and locate yourself.  You’re in the woods for God’s sake!

12.  Buy a longer spoon, so you can get the food out of your freeze dried meal packet without getting food all over your knuckles.

13.  Bring a couple of paper towel halves.  They come in handy around meal time.

14.  Dig out your head lamp before it gets dark.

Pyro, Buff, Purl and I linked up and drove up to Gunny’s on Friday.  Gunny and ‘the wife’, had prepared chicken enchiladas, we brought beer and Guac, so we had a little party that evening.  Everyone got a bed, I had to sleep on the floor, not sure why I had the floor, since I’m the elder gentleman of the group.  That’s the last time that will happen.

Next morning we drove to the hostel where NC 19E crosses near the AT.  We camped then had breakfast at the BB that runs the hostel, then took a shuttle to the where the AT crosses the Nolichucky River in Erwin, NC.

The AT here follows the NC/TN border for about 50 miles and goes over several pointless ups and downs (PUDS) culminating with Roan Mountain famous for it’s several balds and higher elevations (@6200 feet).

Just as soon as we started walking, we ran into a torrential downpour that lasted for about an hour.  The humidity was, and stayed above 90%, for about 5 out of the 6 hiking days.

We had a few hours of partial sun and I, at least, was able to dry out a bit, before making camp.  We had originally planned to do only 5 miles on the first day with a 12 mile second day, but were able to do about 8 miles, leaving about 9 miles for Monday.

Rain on and off for the next 3 days.  A quite a bit of rain on Tuesday night, in fact a major storm forcing Buff, Pyro, and Purl to relocate their tents in the dark to higher ground.  This was a major undertaking that they performed quite well and very successfully!  Bravo to them!

It was a foggy, cold, wet trek up to Roan Mountain.  So foggy that we couldn’t see and walked right passed the parking area for day hikers.

Oh yes, we had linked up with another member of our group, Suds, at the Hostel.  Suds had driven down from Kansas City, Mo., and although Suds is an experienced hiker, this was his first backpacking trip.

This trip had started out as the backpacking trip from hell – even though we had all been through this kind of weather, the constant muddy and wet tree tunnels, fog, continual drip drip drip from the trees and cooler temps, wet feet,  the steep up hill climbs on muddy roots, did I mention mud(?), had turned this trip into as much a mental test as a physical one.

These conditions, unfortunately, took their toll on Suds.  But…what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…right?  So hopefully, Suds’ next trip (if there is a next trip) will benefit from the lessons of this trip.  I know I certainly learned a lot about my conditioning, equipment, and what a big baby I am.  It was all I could do to suck it up and drive on.

In case you’re wondering where the pictures are, my camera broke on day 2, so…sorry, no pix.  Gunny took a lot of photos.

The weather finally started to clear up, just a bit on days 4 and 5, and day 6, the hike out day, was quite pleasant.

The end.

Let me sum up.  We went backpacking on the AT, it rained every day.  We didn’t see anything because we spent all day in a tree tunnel.  The balds were socked in fog, except for the last day.  The campsites were soaking wet.  The last night, we couldn’t even get a good fire going, the wood was so soaked.  The 2 or 3 nights prior, we didn’t even try.

And to add to our camping enjoyment, we were using Awol’s AT Guide, and wouldn’t you know it, the site we intended to camp, marked in the guide as having both campsites and plenty of water – HAD NEITHER!  So we looked around for over 1 hour, then defeated, turned tail and marched back uphill for a half mile or so to the last place we saw water.

I’m beginning to really hate tree tunnels.

California here I come, right back where I started from!


Muddog saved my life, but we had to leave him behind.

Well, sort of. I hate wet feet. I don’t mind so much hiking in wet feet, but hanging around camp in wet feet just sucks. I’m not complaining, too much anyway, if you hike in Dolly Sods you’re bound to get your feet wet sooner or later.

The forecast was for a 40-60% chance of showers, with some thunder boomers. We had about 15 people signed up for the trip, so it was hard to enforce my personal rule of avoiding these local trips with a rain forecast above 50%.

I know the ‘Sods’ is a wilderness area with a limit of 10 per group, but experience has shown that lots of folks sign up and lots of folks drop out closer to the day of the hike. And wouldn’t you know it, right on schedule folks started to change their RSVP, the polite ones anyway. We still had 4 no-shows, very rude. In the end we had a group of 6, so no wilderness rules broken.

Back to the ‘wet’. We left the Tidewater area of VA around noon, stopped to eat in Harrisonburg, Va, and made it to the trail head about 7pm. The ladies hit the trail and Mr. Clean Jeans and I shuttled the cars about 5 miles south of the TH to save a couple of hours on the last day.

By the time we hit the trail it was close to 9pm. Right from the start we noticed that the normally high ground, which was the remnants of some old road, was completely and thoroughly soaked, the Sods had some big rain earlier that day and week. But we had partly cloudy skies to camp and a great sunset.


Muddog was already at camp and there was a nice fire in spite of all the wood being soaked.


The naturally occurring phosphates had foamed up in parts of the creek, looking like something from factory runoff. And the water was still ‘reddish’ after being filtered, typical Dolly Sods.

No rain that night or the next morning as we took in the highlands of the Sods and marched to that nights camp along a tributary branch of Red Creek (Red because the water is almost red, brownish-red)

We covered the 23 miles pretty fast and got to camp pretty early, no wait, that’s my nightmare trip. We covered the – 7 – miles pretty fast and got to camp early in the afternoon. We had the usual long lunch at the rocky outcrops on the Sods west side overlooking Canaan Valley. Well, not that long, some folks were itching to start walking and the clouds were starting to move in, so off we went.
DSC01364  DSC01371

DSC01381  DSC01391

We got to camp, set up tents, collected firewood – or fire brush in this case, got a nice fire going, and then it started raining. An hour and a half later, it stops, sort of, and we can get out of our tents. I had a good nap and listened to podcasts for a while.

The fire re-starts pretty easily and we start cooking somewhere between 5-6.

The rain never really stopped, it just slowed way down, where you can’t tell if it’s sprinkling or just dripping from the trees.

Now to part where Muddog saves my life.

My feet are pretty much soaked when we get to camp, I wasn’t carrying in spare shoes, I mean, like, who in their right mind would?

In the past I have carried large zip-locks to cover dry socks so I can put my wet boots back on, but for some reason (old age?) I didn’t throw any in my pack this time, so I was doomed to suffer in cold, wet, smelling socks around camp.

As I was lamenting around the campfire – there was no crying dammit! – Muddog saved my life by giving me 2 giant zip-locks so I could have warm and dry feet!! I feel a tear coming on just thinking about it! My hero!

DSC01401  DSC01405

It was with great sadness that we had to leave him behind. Well almost. As the rain continued on and off, the discussion turned to the fact there was not going to be any swimming on Red Creek with lots of basking in the sunshine and that maybe we should consider hiking out and getting a good hot meal and homemade pie…not a bad idea.

In true 4th of July fashion, a vote was taken and pie won. Muddog was not being as wimpy as the rest of us, and was considering pressing on, or slogging on, in the mud, for a few more days, so leave him behind we would!

In the end Muddog bowed to group pressure or the call of the pie and joined us for an early feast at the Gateway restaurant on Hwy 33.

The slog out was almost as epic as the Sods get.          DSC01418   DSC01429       DSC01433   DSC01449 DSC01451

Ankle deep mud, ankle deep bogs, several creek crossings in pouring rain, and the sun breaking out of the heavens just as we clear the woods!

Homemade pie about 60 minutes later.

What’s not to love?

PS. Sort of training for the JMT in August, my pack weighed-in at 25lbs, including a bear canister (2.5lbs), my 2-legged chair (1.1lbs), platypus 4liter gravity filter (.8lbs), and 4 meals. Including one-liter of water. Not bad.

I could cut most of the weight of the filter by using my steri-pen or aqua mira, but I’m just effing lazy! I would rather filter my daily 4 liters all at once that stand there and do 1 liter at a time, plus my ‘clean bag’ could double as a water bladder with a sip tube, if I wanted to do that.

There, I said it.