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pc22

Alpental winter upvalley travel restricted

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That isn't a "plowed trail"

 

What are you talking about? Did anybody say they plowed the trail?

 

I noted that they plow the parking lot, and I think this is correct. They don't plow the trail but they DO drive groomers partway up it sometimes.

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I think that HR made a suggestion that they did in his post. It's often packed down well enough on the lower sections that it appears groomed.

 

Parking in the lower lot and walking up the other side may well be a bit more inconvenient, but I still can't see how it's going to prevent anyone from accessing the peaks back there. Even with the longer approach from the lower lot the approach still isn't going to be all that bad IMO.

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All Alpental is saying, from what I've read, is that they want to keep the trail THEY groom free of uphill traffic to avoid potentially dangerous situations due to collision with skiers coming down said trail.

 

Let's be clear about this: They "groom" about 300 yards of this "trail" leaving the parking lot, some of which is required to allow winter access to the water tower. The grooming usually consists of running the snow cat up the trail to the first hill of any kind, and then back. From that little hill on there is no maintenance whatsoever- the packed out trail is created by skiers and snowshoers going in both directions.

 

This is not a groomed winter trail like is maintained for paid cross country use on the other side of I-90.

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Read carefully, marylou, nothing that is going on is preventing your access to public land.

 

Greg, you fail to see my point:

 

That said, without knowing the terms of the lease for the land, all of this is mere speculation.

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Just a few personal observations:

 

A I don't see the big deal with an extra 5 minutes to access the 'normal' start. Parking at the lower lot is the standard start for Mt Snoqualmie/Cave Ridge. Do you all cry 'foul' when access is denied for avalanche control there?

 

B Some of my favorite access roads: Westside Road, Carbon River (MRNP), and, now The Middle Fork are/will soon be closed. These closures are much more than a FIVE MINUTE inconvenience! It's funny how 'access' only becomes an issue when it comes home to your favorite spot(s). I'm having a hard time finding sympathy for the complaints posted here.

 

C I'm seriously not trying to sound insensitive

here, but I can't help but note that this controversy was partly precipitated by a snowshoe party that decided to head up the valley during what were reported as (at least)'high' avalanche conditions. Sometimes our (questionable?) actions have consequences beyond the risks we are willing to accept at the personal level. We should consider how the ultimate failure reflects on the sport and how it effects all of those involved, such as rescuers/searchers, family (of course), and other back country enthusiasts.

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Fairweather, you are right: The big picture is that this is yet another erosion of access for non-commercial users, while loggers, drillers, developers, cattle ranchers, and other commercial interests seem to be enjoying increased ability to impart much higher impacts (clear cutting, building roads, airports, encampments, etc) on public land. Can you say "Healthy Forests Act"?

 

While I don't agree with Matt about this being only five additional minutes, my real concern is, what will the next thing be, and by what closed, back-door process will it be decided?

 

FWIW, I think the Middle Fork Road and the roads you mentioned around Rainier should remain open. The alternative I supported from the MRNP draft plans was the one closest to no change.

 

-L

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Read carefully, marylou, nothing that is going on is preventing your access to public land.

 

Greg, you fail to see my point:

 

That said, without knowing the terms of the lease for the land, all of this is mere speculation.

 

So FOI the lease and shut the fuck up already. Seriously, there has been much speculation on this thread. HOwever, several individuals have talked with Alpental management and/or FS management and gotten a somewhat foggy picture of what is going to be done/allowed. What I have read in relayed conversations is that access IS NOT being denied into the Source Lake Basin area, they are simply asking that said access be made from the "summer trail".

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Fairweather, you are right: The big picture is that this is yet another erosion of access for non-commercial users, while loggers, drillers, developers, cattle ranchers, and other commercial interests seem to be enjoying increased ability to impart much higher impacts (clear cutting, building roads, airports, encampments, etc) on public land. Can you say "Healthy Forests Act"?

 

While I don't agree with Matt about this being only five additional minutes, my real concern is, what will the next thing be, and by what closed, back-door process will it be decided?

 

FWIW, I think the Middle Fork Road and the roads you mentioned around Rainier should remain open. The alternative I supported from the MRNP draft plans was the one closest to no change.

 

-L

 

Those issues aside, and from a purely selfish point, the only 'interest groups' that I see limiting, or attempting to limit my access to mountain areas, are so-called environmental organizations like ALPS, Sound-to-Mountains Greenway, WTA, Wilderness Society, etc. This Alpental issue is, in fact, a non-issue IMHO.

 

The industries you cite above represent a seperate debate.

 

 

BTW, my original post was just a general reply. It was not directed at you personally, I just hit the 'reply' link to advance the thread.

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I'm not totally familiar with the parking lot geography up there, but could this possibly be the result of the bridge being broken? With that broken bridge, is it now the case that the lower lot is the least convenient with respect to the lifts. Perhaps all this hoopla is just about the Summit reserving the best parking spots for their clientele?

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I still fail to see the big conspiracy against backcountry, non-commercial users here. Let anyone go wherever they want on public land you guys say? Is that realistic in a crowded valley like Alpental? I'm conscious of the trend towards privitization of public lands, but I think in this case it's a matter of doing something in the best interest of all user groups involved. I'm guessing ski patrol had a part in the decision making process, which makes sense. If they can avoid having to respond to skier / snowshoer collisions by redirecting traffic to the summer trail...how is that bad? I'm not even going to comment about people whining about walking 5 extra minutes. rolleyes.gif

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Eight -

You insensitive brute, don't you realize that if they walk extra slow it will take them TEN extra minutes? And maybe after a heavy snow it will take a few more parties of backcountry users before we have a packed trail because the downhill skiers won't be packing it for us? You call them whiners?

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Fairweather -

 

If the only groups limiting your access are environmental groups, I must assume you never go to popular wilderness areas or National Parks. In places like Boston Basin, the Enchantments, popular routes on Mount Rainier, or the Tetons it can be very hard to come by a permit if you are a non-commercial user. It is not environmental groups who have put in place these restrictions and much of this has been driven by management concerns quite apart from any environmental issues. Further, I believe the WTA and some of these "arch environmentalists" you have complained about have been quite active in resisting such proposals as a permit system and restricted numbers on popular hiking routes along the I-90 corridor. As to public lands, I believe that the number one reason our interests have not always been taken into account is that we are not well organized as a user group. Road closures, trail abandonments, the designation of camping and no-camping areas, parking restrictions, etc. are made with copious amounts of input from other interest groups but scant participation from climbers. The answer, in my view, is not to call your fellow climbers a bunch of commies or to question the motivations of "so called environmentalists," but to work to get our act together.

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As a former political strategist, I quickly learned that the demographics of voters is weighted heavily on the older side. The younger the voter, the less likely they are to execise the right. This changes a little during a presidential election but is still clearly weighted to the advantage of the elderly. The most popular excuse I hear is, "My one vote is not going to make a difference". Which is only true as long as millions of you continue to think that way. The FS is under the executive branch. Local variations of the executive plan can be influenced by local politicians but that is subject to executive approval.

Basically, if you don't vote, you don't matter. That is just a political reality, not my judgement.

Edited by mattp

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I believe that it will be very difficult to redirect traffic after a large snow or even after a moderate one. Trudging through deep snow instead of walking on a path that has been groomed by machines and constant skiers will dictate a much longer approach than a mere five minutes.

 

Currently there are numerous signs on the trail. At least one says not to enter, others warn of avalanches and speeding skiers. I think that skiers coming down that trail are for the most part aware that people use it on a regular basis. The people going up the trail are very aware that they might get run over. These user groups have co-existed here for a long time.

 

Honestly, I would like to see the winter access remain open to backcountry skiers, snowshoers, families of sleders and climbers. I think that the only time the alternate summer trail will be five minutes longer will be after a long period of dry weather or rain. A good chunk of the normal winter trail is maintained which makes it very quick. I understand that as a climber the trail is not being maintained for me, but because it's already there I have a hard time wallowing in deep snow.

 

Jason

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I'm not totally familiar with the parking lot geography up there, but could this possibly be the result of the bridge being broken? With that broken bridge, is it now the case that the lower lot is the least convenient with respect to the lifts. Perhaps all this hoopla is just about the Summit reserving the best parking spots for their clientele?

 

Nope..... bigdrink.gif

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Jason -

 

In my experience, it takes three or four skiers to totally break a trail for following skiers, and about the same for snowshoers. After a trail has been broken by snowshoers, it often doesn't take more than a handful of people to walk on it before it is good for hiking, too, and most of us who head up there for climbing bring snowshoes or skis anyway because the trail is rarely ever firm all the way to where we are going. Given the numbers of backcountry users, particularly the number of folks who travel as far as the "maintained" or "packed" part of the ski trail, I really think that most of the winter we would have a perfectly good and packed trail to follow if we were to follow their nasty horrible unfair dastardly rule and travel on the right side of the creek. Honestly, I think the burden that is being placed upon us has been vastly overstated here but, yes, the first couple of parties up there after a snowstorm may have to work harder than previously.

 

Yes, I don't think there was really much problem with collisions between backcountry travelers and downhill skiers but I gotta say that I have on numerous occasions seen families playing and other groups digging snowcaves (booby traps) in the middle of or immediately next to the ski trail. In addition, snowshoers and others seem prone to stopping in the middle of the trail while they rifle around for a camera of take off their sweater. Perhaps there has been more conflict than you and I realize because we tend to come and go, in a hurry, in the wee hours or late in the day after everybody else has gone home.

 

I really think the burden that is being placed upon us has been way overstated. Yes, it sucks. But are we "taking it in the rear?" Will it really mean you are going to be wallowing in the snow all winter long? Is this going to lead to a bunch of other closures in the Snoqualmie Pass area? I think probably not.

 

Call/write/email the powers to be and tell them that you are disappointed or angered by this new policy. But let's not play chicken little here -- the sky is not falling! And I hope nobody feels the need to adopt a hostile attitude with the ski patrol or the parking lot crew. It won't help.

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With the amount of traffic that area sees I can't help but suspect that that trail on the opposite side will be pretty well packed all of the time. The trail leading up to Colchuck sees quite a bit less traffic and it is probably packed out about 70-80% of the time in any given winter. I think it'll be okay...

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Fairweather -

 

If the only groups limiting your access are environmental groups, I must assume you never go to popular wilderness areas or National Parks. In places like Boston Basin, the Enchantments, popular routes on Mount Rainier, or the Tetons it can be very hard to come by a permit if you are a non-commercial user. It is not environmental groups who have put in place these restrictions and much of this has been driven by management concerns quite apart from any environmental issues. Further, I believe the WTA and some of these "arch environmentalists" you have complained about have been quite active in resisting such proposals as a permit system and restricted numbers on popular hiking routes along the I-90 corridor. As to public lands, I believe that the number one reason our interests have not always been taken into account is that we are not well organized as a user group. Road closures, trail abandonments, the designation of camping and no-camping areas, parking restrictions, etc. are made with copious amounts of input from other interest groups but scant participation from climbers. The answer, in my view, is not to call your fellow climbers a bunch of commies or to question the motivations of "so called environmentalists," but to work to get our act together.

 

Matt,

 

WTA supported closure of the Middle Fork Road. Their position is part of the public record regarding this matter. They actually tried to convince their membership that this road closure would provide for more hiking opportunities! (I guess I don't understand the math.)

 

ALPS sued the USFS to prevent use of chainsaws after the winter of 99' when hundreds of miles of trails were buried beneath fallen trees. When asked about the effect this action would have on hikers and climbers, the spokesman for ALPS reply was 'too bad'. ( I understand ALPS only relented when the local Forest Supervisor pointed out that it was perfectly legal to use hand drills and dynamite to clear the windfalls!)

 

As for user limits in National Parks, most are a direct result of the 'solitude' provisions in The Wilderness Act, or an indirect result of lawsuit pressure brought by environmental groups under this arbitrary concept. The Wilderness Society has even threatened to sue the Mt Hood National Forest for their failure to impose a 25 climber per day limit on Mt Hood. Limits at Mount St Helens are not for resource protection, but rather to maintain an ill-defined 'experience' for the user.

 

I agree however, that climbers need to get organized and speak up for access. The Access Fund is, in my opinion, the only group that speaks for true balance in this regard.

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This is what I have seen so far: Plenty of folks are still going up the trail. They're not really stopping anybody, and I haven't seen any new signage. I did see the snoqualmie pass security guy come up to try to shoo away some sledders and with his PA he shouted that there was "no uphill traffic" on the trail. But it's not like he was getting out of his Jeep and stopping anybody. Uphill traffic, has not seemed to slow down, at least not noticeably. I've been skiing at Alpental for a long time and if anything the traffic is higher now than it has ever been. They're not stopping the snowshoers, so I don't see why should the climbers and backcountry skiers should stop either.

 

However, some of the showshoers DO seem to think that this is a trail maintained for THEM. It is not. It is made by skiers coming out of the BC. Skiers coming downhill have the right of way, as they should. From what I have seen in the last decade, people with climbing packs and uphill skiers are very conscious of the downhill traffic but some of the showshoers will do things like stopping right on the trail or walking in a horizontal column that blocks the whole trail.

 

I think people should still be able to head up the trail but I do wish that they would add a sign that specifically says that downhill travellers should have the right of way (I believe there is a warning sign but it's not too specific) and that breaks and rest stops should be taken away from the trail.

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Just be hostile and let the email addresses be public here.

 

It will be more use for us than reading gibberish and stuff not necessary for some. Or start a thread mark it hot and give all the details there - probably better.

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Fairweather,

 

There ARE environmental groups who advocate for road closures and restrictions on backcountry access, to be sure. I'm glad there are, too. Without them, we would probably never have set aside most of our National Parks and wilderness areas, and I'm glad we have these places. Would you rather have had the entire Washington Cascade range run as a tree farm? I wouldn't. Yes, we do lose some access with these road closures, and I pretty much believe that once a road has been put in we may as well keep it open because the damage has by that time already been done. Like you, I too am disappointed to see the West Side road closed, but you know what? We will still have the same roads and trailheads approaching very close to most of the rest of the mountain so maybe it is actually a good thing to have the West side become a little more remote. And without the Middle Fork road there will still be hundreds, maybe thousands, of roads taking you deep into the mountains near Seattle. In a hundred years, people may well look back and be glad for the closure. Yes, there are some silly interpretations of the Wilderness act and I don't support a ban on the use of chainsaws for trailwork or restricting the number of parties allowed to enter an area so somebody can hike on a smooth wide trail maintained with public dollars and have some fantasy that they are in a remote wilderness area when they are only three miles from the highway.

 

But you have some of your facts wrong, I think. The National Parks are NOT managed under the Wilderness Act, are they? And the limits of ten people at Thumb Rock (or whatever it is), and 100 people at Camp Muir (or whatever it is) have very little to do with managing for solitude and I dont' think they were imposed in response to any pressure from "so called environmental organizations." The same is true for the limits on the number of parties allowed to camp in Boston Basin or at, say, the Lower Saddle on the Grand Teton. Even in many wilderness areas the party numbers are not limited for "solitude." These kinds of restrictions often come about for reasons of wanting to control impact, sanitation, police concerns, concerns for safety, and the convenience of the land managers - limiting party numbers is the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient way to address all of these concerns and it just so happens that limiting user numbers also makes life easier for the rangers. TYs there are environmental groups who sue the FS to try to get them to restrict access, but there are other groups suing them to force them to open up the woods. And I don't think it is fair to say that the Access Fund is arguing for "balance." They are not. They are advocating for climbing.

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Matt:

 

Just a couple of clarifications.

 

Chainsaws are essentially banned from use in the Wilderness areas except in cases of massive downed trees, and then local land managers can make an exception and allow chainsaws on a case-by-case basis. I don't know the nuances of this rule, but if anyone else does, I'd like to hear about it.

 

As far as NPs and the Wilderness Act, well, surprisingly, NPs DO have Wilderness areas in them, subject to the rules regs and spirit of the Act. MRNP has quite a bit of Wilderness in fact. It's interesting to me as the mission of the NPs is largely to share the natural legacy with as many folks as possible, and the mission of the Wilderness Act is to preserve the natural legacy. Kind of working to serve different ends if you ask me.

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But you have some of your facts wrong, I think. The National Parks are NOT managed under the Wilderness Act, are they?

 

Actually, MRNP is 97% designated Wilderness Area and subject to the governing rules of The Wilderness Act. I'm not sure about the % of wilderness designation for ONP and NCNP, but I believe it is close to 100%.

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Aha. You and Marylou pointed out my error about the wilderness designation. Like Marylou, I don't understand the reason for designating wilderness areas within previously exisiting National Parks and, like you, I don't like the way they are applying the Wilderness Act, but do you maintain that the restrictions on permits for camping at Muir, Schurman, or Thumb Rock have anything to do with managing for solitude? Do you really think that all the restrictions to our access came about as a result of pressure from groups from ALPS?

 

By the way, in my opinion the Olympic National Park is a textbook example of a park that is thoughtfully managed, with regard to access issues. You can drive your Winnebago right in to the Hoh Rainfores, up to Hurricane Ridge, and out to some of the most beautiful beaches in the universe, but most of the park remains wilderness. The closure/abandonment of the road to the Olympic hot springs twenty years ago was a good move, in my opinion, as has been the attempt to minimize access to the logging roads just outside the boundaries of the coastal wilderness strip. I don't think they manage for "solitude" - they don't really have to - and I have never heard of anybody having any permit problems. Whether you are wheelchair bound, tied to your WInnebago, a marathon trail runner or a peak-bagger, the Olympic National Park has something for you and it is not being run into the ground or developed. The surrounding Olympic National Forest, on the other hand, has almot completely been ravaged by the chainsaw. I wish there HAD been more designated wilderness there.

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Fairweather

 

While I share your distaste for the extreme elements in the environmental movement, Without organized advocacy for protecting land things would be different around here.

 

In fact before the North Cascades National Park was established a mining company had plans for an open pit copper mine within the park boundaries that, at the time, would have been the largest open pit mine in the world.

 

As to wilderness areas in parks, I highly doubt that Camp Muir is in the wilderness area in Rainier Park. Having the west side road closed to driving may in fact be a good deal considering how many people access stuff off the road to Paradise. At Denali National Park the whole north side of the mountain is a wilderness area yet you can land a plane on the SE fork of the Kahiltna.

 

I think if you look long and hard at your true beliefs you'll find that the political party you love does not have your best interest at stake. If there was oil under Mt Rainier I bet your buddy GW would be pushing to drill for it.

 

I know there are plenty of radical enviro types that don't have your best interest at stake either...I'm with you on the middle fork road.

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