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jerseyscum

Falling climbers' numbers

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I notice on Mr. Skoog's excellent online annual journal concerning local alpinism a story from Park Service documenting a decline in numbers of climbers in N. Cascades on the order of 25% over past four or five years. Apparently some but not all may be weather-related for most recent year. Has anyone noticed this and/or have any theories why it may be so? Has Rainier, Denali, Tetons etc., shown similar decline?

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Does it maybe have something to do with the age of the population in general: that we boomers (me, maybe not you) are getting old and going on shuffleboard cruises & such instead of climbing?

 

Interesting statistic. There doesn't seem to be any decline in the numbers of hard-core climbers on the Index wallz.

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Interesting thread. I really have no idea why this might be. Perhaps people are less likely to beat the brush and devil's club than they used to.

--

Speaking of index and number of climber visits, although I've never really climbed at index a whole lot, the place seemed to see a lot more people in the early 90's than it has in the last five or so years.

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Some other ideas:

 

number of years since Into Thin Air

 

economy is sucking so less folks with money to spend on expensive hobbies

 

growth of other "extreme" sports that offer more bang with less suffering, e.g. sport climbing, bouldering

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The numbers in NWMJ show a pretty sharp drop in '04, alright.

I had also heard that there has been a longer term shift in NCNP climbing numbers away from the deep back-country areas (e.g. Pickets) in favor of shorter approach areas such as Cascade Pass and Shuksan. Maybe a ranger or other knowledgable person can comment whether this is true.

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.

Speaking of index and number of climber visits, although I've never really climbed at index a whole lot, the place seemed to see a lot more people in the early 90's than it has in the last five or so years.

 

I think that is directly attributable to the development of sport crags.

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I'll throw out another possible reason for the drop off - perhaps there was a change in the way the NPS recorded the statistic.

 

Not sure how they recorded it before, or even now, but I'm guessing it has to do with permits issued. I haven't done much in the NCascades, but has there been a change in the way permits have been issued? Reduction in quotas? I'd lean more toward a change in the definition of the statistic than an actual change in the number of climbers.

 

-kurt

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there has been an overall drop in visitation to national parks in the last few years (http://www.nps.gov/pub_aff/refdesk/10MVUNP.pdf) and a corresponding drop in other uses, such as Rainier climber numbers (http://www.nps.gov/mora/climb/cl_stats.htm), and I gather from this thread, N. Cascades climber numbers. So, whatever changes have happened with permitting at NCNP, the trend seems larger.

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Gary perhaps you can come up with a predictive equation. Of course, climbing numbers are inherently irrational, but I'm certain you can think of something.

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The numbers for climbers in certain areas published in the NWMJ for 2004 did show a dramatic drop for that year. I speculated on reasons in the intro - the trail and bridge damage from the Oct 2003 flood event (which was well-publicized over the winter) combined with unusually persistent bad weather in Aug 04. Also our numbers for hikers, and even the visitor center were down in 2004 too, suggesting an overall downward travel trend to the park as M. Husbands suggested.

 

Yes, these are permit data which were collected consistently over the past few years with no changes to quotas or other variables like that. Of course it's possible that general compliance with the permit system is down - there are always more people out there than what the permit data show, but given the consistency with Mount Rainier's trend and our other data, I don't think that is the main factor. What it is exactly...I don't really know either!

 

It looks like 2005 will show a somewhat busier season than 2004, although some areas (Boston Basin for instance) still in a downward trend. As far as the comment about climbers sticking closer to the roads - actually the data, and our observations, show that remote areas are getting more use and it is the close-in areas like BB that are less busy than years past.

 

2005 was way below average at North Cascades for number of climbing accidents and rescues, and for that matter, floods, fires and other incidents as well. (although did have the first multi-fatality climbing accident in many years). I'll submit the same info to 2005 NWMJ and to the park website again soon.

 

Kelly Bush

Wilderness District Ranger

North Cascades National Park

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Kelly - thanks for the info! Guess that blows my theory. It's just been my experience in other things that when statistics go waaaaaay out of whack, that it's usually due to things other than the obvious.

 

-kurt

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I don't particulary remember August, but my recollection is that September 2004 was the suckiest in terms of weather of the 15 Septembers I've spent in WA.

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It may also be as simple as lacking interest. New generations seem to have a far less durable, persisting tenacity to stick with anything once it becomes too difficult; this is of course a generalization and perhaps best only applied to the fad seekers (of which the adventure sports are choked). As a result, how about the possiblity of mountaineering/climbing as no longer 1) a way to impress women 2) too much of 'yesterday's news'.

 

As a kid, my old man and i were the only ones in our town who did any climbing. Then, through college, a burst of interested climbers appeared, for about five years, then stopped doing much or moved on to other sports. Many of them stopped doing simple camping. Climbing seemed to cycle through a dark, if-you're-not-the-first-ascentionist-then-who-the-heck-do-you-think-you-are?

 

The accompanying rise in base jumping or kiteskiing, etc, might be corellative, and I think- in addition to what everyone else has said- it's a response to the new generation's- our- attitudes and character.

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how about the weather? have you looked outside lately? so it's pretty much raining 6-7 months out of the year, no decent sport climbing, approaches suck ass and good routes are quite rare.

from talking to a couple of my friends still working in outdoor industry for the couple of years the sales are pretty much flat. the exeption might be plastics, but there are a lot of new companies, so the competition is solid.

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