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Mike_Gauthier

from tire chains to crampons

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a few posts on tire chains got me thinking...

since so many climbers on rainier are new to glaciers, should all climbers be checked for crampons before they are allowed to continue onto a glacier?

and to prevent the tricksters that grab their wife's crampons instead of buying their own, should we require everyone to put the crampons on to ensure a proper fit?

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I can only imagine the jackasses you'd encounter when you tried to enforce that policy. [laf] I still find it amazing that there is a need for that.

-Iain

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Mike - I can't tell for sure whether you are inviting a spray fest or a serious conversation. Your post sounds preposterous, but when I went to climb Mt. Rainier in the winter of 1977-78 we had to check in with the rangers at Paradise and they actually inspected our gear to see that we were properly equipped. We got a good laugh out of that one, thinking how if we brought extra warm sleeping bags and tents and a bunch of wands to show the rangers we would get our "permit" but noting that our "gear" didn't have a thing to do with our prospects for a safe and successful climb. Indeed, we passed some guys hauling sleds full of gear who obviously "passed muster" but didn't seem to have a clue.

By the way, I've said it before but I agree with Fairweather: tell it like it is and I will believe what you say. In thirty years of climbing, I have rarely heard a park service or forest service ranger to tell the truth about hazards and conditions (let alone political issues) but you have proven a reliable source of information. If you tell me that it is dangerous to go up on Mt. Rainier this week, I will listen. -Mattp

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quote:

Originally posted by Mike Gauthier:
....should we require everyone to put the crampons on to ensure a proper fit?

Mr. Gator:

First, I enjoyed the article in this months Outside mag about you and the other climbing rangers at Mt. Rainer. You guys are awesome. Now, whenever I see your name or picture I always think of that punk from American Pie 1 and 2. It will be a long while before you live that down smile.gif" border="0

I don't generally get permits to climb my mountain so do what you want with the other folks. However, a suggestion for your proposed test would be too have them soak their hands and crampons in a bucket of ice water for 2 minutes prior to putting them in a dark cold closet to put on thier crampons. tongue.gif" border="0

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Just like MATTP said, the rangers used to inspect the gear of Rainier hopefuls and actually tested ice axes (wood shafts) to see that the axe would not break when using a boot/axe belay. They broke a friends axe during the test and denied him permission to climb. In 1964 we were denied permission to attempt Denali (still considered a highly risky and remote peak) because we hadn't enough high altitude expeience. We had already done Baker, Glacier and St. Helens in the winter (with some horrindous conditions). We were denied a permit to attempt Rainier in winter, "A winter attempt is too serious, too risky".

I must say though, the Rangers have a thankless job. They have to babysit lots of tourists who have no clue about the preservation of the environment and want thier "nature" surved on a platter. The Rangers have to placate or handle the yuppies who think the rules apply to th "other" people because the yups "know what they are doing". The Rangers have always been informative and honest with me; I like to think it is because I try to treat them with respect and patience.

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Roger - In Rainier Park I've been told rediculous things like that a creek 1 foot deep was "uncrossable," or that Pan Point had an "extreme" avalanche hazard when it hadn't snowed for over two weeks, and this wasn't always coming from someone who didn't know what they were talking about -- sometimes they had some other agenda. A friend of mine was discouraged from climbing the Dissapointment Cleaver one spring, when several different rangers including one who was descending from a summit climb told him that it was solid ice and he should pick a different route. He went up anyway, and it turned out there was no ice in sight but RMI was shovelling a path up there and the rangers had been running interference for Big Lou.

You are right that the rangers have a somewhat thankless job, but I treat them with respect and follow the rules (almost always) and I've been misinformed by rangers more often than not over the years. I wonder -- have they really always been informative and honest with you? Are we talking about the same guys?

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Well, actually, I am thinking of Gary (Oldman?), crap! can't remember his last name. Ranger in the 70s and 80s; probably still in the NPS. I usually just go and find out for myself, don't need any hand holding.

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Another thought: the rangers have to talk to the lowest level of competence. They have to assume everyone is a Gumby, not someone fresh from the N.Face of La Droite.

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I support mountain freedom.....BUT I think optional "rescue insurance" is a good idea. (NOT some policy that would obligate anyone to come rescue your butt) I think they do something like this in The Alps....No insurance??? Go ahead and climb! But if you get into trouble, it's gonna' cost you if a professional rescue is required.

Also, I was originally against the $150 fee implemented for Mckinley/Denali climbers....but it sounds like they are using the $$$ to support climbers and cover lagitimate programs.

The $15 fee at Rainier is also reasonable for Muir and Schurman to cover the cost of waste removal. But why do climbers on other routes have to pay this fee?

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Let’s be VERY clear

1. I’m am NOT serious about this proposal,2. No one else is proposing this policy and,3. My posts on this site do NOT represent the NPS in any way imaginable (in fact, I’m not even working for the NPS right now.)

I’m just playing, but hey, “hands soaking in ice” isn’t a bad idea. Thankfully for ALL involved, we don’t grill climbers like that anymore. As stated, we focus on education and accurate information sharing.

A few other things…

To the best of my knowledge, rangers don’t run “interference” for RMI. Can you expand on what happened to you on the DC? What time of year was it? Personally, I’ve never heard of a ranger shoveling or maintaining the climbing route (unless it was for emergency purposes).

On another note, it’s rather refreshing to see so many of you defending the work that rangers (and other public servants) do. Thank you very much. You correctly note some of the difficulties we face. Its true, any yahoo can show up here and we’re left to pick up the pieces when things don’t go well. This could mean a rescue, but usually, it’s more like garbage, trampled meadows, wrecked cars, or wildlife that’s been fed too much. I’m not sure, however, that talking to people at the lowest level of competence goes over very well though. I find straight, no bullshit comments gain the public’s respect more than anything. The creek crossing and avalanche stories sited above are CLASSIC examples of sharing bad information. I’ve been told the same stuff before and personally such misinformation frustrates me. Part of the issue here though is that the public wants information so badly that they’ll insist on anything. Most employees really want to help the public, so they repeat what they’ve heard, even though that information may not be accurate anymore. Many people find it difficult to say, “I don’t know,” or “we don’t know.” This is especially the case when you’re pressed to “speculate” or give a best guess. As we know, the information age doesn’t always apply to the wilderness. But try telling that to someone who has 1 week of vacation and the Wonderland Trail is their objective. All they want to here is, yes, all of your campsites are available, the weather will be great, and they’re a no hazards to worry about.

Like you folks, I’m an avid user of public lands. Therefore, I too get snagged in the same bureaucratic quagmires. I’ve been told all sorts of crazy stuff when applying for permits in all sorts of parks and forest areas. And like Matt, I also believe that alternative agendas do exist. Sometimes it’s just plain laziness (something that EVERYONE can be guilty of), but sometimes it’s a concerted effort to keep information away from the user. Just the other day for example, a well-known writer (who shall remain unnamed) shared a story with me about a backcountry permit situation he had. Now keep in mind, this guy has been hiking and climbing all over the NW for 30 plus years. Anyway, he had to press the ranger for a permit in a cross-country camping zone b/c they didn’t trust his skills to camp in the backcountry. They barely issued him the permit, even though he has every right to get the permit without hassle. Sure, you’ll hear all sorts of information about established camps, but try to get information on the “cross-country camping zones.” That can be difficult, unless of course, you’re in the know. Do you get irritated when you know this is going on? Personally, I found it difficult to deceive the public, and ESPECIALLY climbers. (btw, many rangers agree that climbers are about the smartest of all park visitors. They can also be the most cussedly independent and cynical, but that's ok too). Anyway, I hate game playing that is associated with getting permits… b/c let’s face it, not everyone is “in the know” yet many of you can handle camping in a cross-country zone just fine. Right?

About the American Pie reference; I had to watch the movie to figure out what Barcott was talking about, as I was unfamiliar with Stifler. Needless to say, it got me laughing.

Gauthier (aka Stifler, without the jackass qualities)

And by the way, when visiting Rainier in the winter, carry tire chains (that fit halling).

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quote:

since so many climbers on rainier are new to glaciers, should all climbers be checked for crampons before they are allowed to continue onto a glacier?

and to prevent the tricksters that grab their wife's crampons instead of buying their own, should we require everyone to put the crampons on to ensure a proper fit?


my answer to your first question is definitely NO. as for the second, it implies the first is not a question but a statement of fact. The last time a I remember a park service employee asking a 1-2 question like this was when your bosses were fishing for opinions on user fees in '93. Gator, PLEASE say it aint so.

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Mike, thanks for the informative posts.

Any of you who think that rangers don't have a right, or even a duty, to scrutinize climbers for competence should check out the story on page 28 of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering 2000". True, this was Denali, not Rainier, but the point is that it was abundantly clear this guy had no business on the mountain (his entire experience to that point was three summer ascents of Long's Peak), but no one with authority acted to keep him from his attempt. The result was that several parties had to become involved in his rescue. Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed.

I would guess with Rainier's much greater accessibility, rangers here would encounter a far greater number of inexperienced and unprepared individuals. I'm curious how often they have to actually refuse people permission to climb. This part of a ranger's job would have to be a real chore, but it improves the safety of everyone on the mountain. I'm certainly glad someone is there to do it, and I don't begrudge the climbing fee one bit.

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Mike,

That DC thing really happened - not to me but to somebody I know. It was may, perhaps ten years ago, and it wasn't the Park Service that was shoveling the trail but it was RMI that was digging switchbacks up above the cleaver. And the climbing rangers at Paradise told the guy there was blue ice up there (blue ice in May???). Another ranger descending while he was just about to reach Camp Muir said the same thing: blue ice above the cleaver – you should try a different route. There was in fact no blue ice anywhere on the route, but there were RMI employees working to prepare the route for the coming climbing season.

You make a good point about how a park employee who may just be trying to be helpful can give out bad information. You and Roger make good points about how the Park Service is asked to be all things to all park visitors and I would have to agree that with respect to climbing, they are generally going to be criticized much more loudly when something goes wrong than they are to be applauded when somebody has an enjoyable visit.

Matt

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quote:

Originally posted by roger johnson:
I usually just go and find out for myself, don't need any hand holding.

That's a good approach. Now, what about Mike's queery? Should NPS be responsible for screening climbers at all? I think that if they see some total gaper they have an obligation to point out the potential danger but I suppose that beyond that they should let him or her go out and find out for themselves, too.

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As for Mikes question. I guess we felt like our civil rights were being trampled upon with those ranger searches. Do what they do at Denali: an educational and information approach and let the climbers make the decisions. As for having the proper equipment; just having it doesn't mean knowledge or ability to use it or the ability to think. How many times have we heard of situations where the distressed climbers made the wrong decisions? Hind sight is 20/20.

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Hi Mike,

Don't worry, some of us got the joke. I thought it was pretty funny. [laf]

... but don't quit your day job.

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quote:

Originally posted by tomtom:
Hi Mike,

Don't worry, some of us got the joke. I thought it was pretty funny.
[laf]

... but don't quit your day job.

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quote:

Originally posted by tomtom:
Hi Mike,

Don't worry, some of us got the joke. I thought it was pretty funny.
[laf]

... but don't quit your day job.

Really, this bunch will grab any bone and run with it

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We decided to climb Lane Peak on Thanksgiving Day one year. When we asked the ranger at the park entrance about conditions, we got a funny reply:

Conditions? You boys are going to do a little snowshoeing I can see. Well, it's been raining recently, and although the freezing level is at about 1500 feet today, it's still warm down low. What we've got is high avalanche danger down low and "fifty mile-pern-hour" winds whippin' in your face up above. I suggest you boys do an about-face and make for turkey dinner right now. Or, I can take your ten bucks now what's it going to be?

We got a kick out of that one. Also, I had a buddy who worked as a seasonal ranger each summer, and I went out to visit him at Devil's Tower in 1987. He used to find the tourists' questions to be pretty ridiculous, and he'd occasionally give ridiculous answers. One of the more hilarious conversations went something like this:

Why climb the tower? Well, the fishing is superb up there. Yes, there's a little tarn with some great walleye. Almost ran dry one year when the pond mysteriously developed a leak. Turns out that climbers' use of pitons was causing the leaks and that's why pitons are no longer allowed.

[ 02-10-2002: Message edited by: pope ]

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quote:

Originally posted by Dan Larson:

Really, this bunch will grab any bone and run with it

Point well taken. Mike wasn't looking to start a debate over whether the park is properly managed. Should we have a "rule" that when someone wants to spray, no serious point is to be made?

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Not really related to this strand, but along the vein of "they'll believe anything"....

A climbing friend of mine once brought his girlfriend up to Paradise for some snowshoeing. From the road he pointed out to her the gendarme at about 11'500 feet on Success Cleaver. He told her that it was a huge snowman that he and I had built when we attempted the route a month earlier.

"...Wow! That's really cool!" she unquestioningly replied.

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quote:

Originally posted by Fairweather:
Not really related to this strand, but along the vein of "they'll believe anything"....

A climbing friend of mine once brought his girlfriend up to Paradise for some snowshoeing. From the road he pointed out to her the gendarme at about 11'500 feet on Success Cleaver. He told her that it was a huge snowman that he and I had built when we attempted the route a month earlier.

"...Wow! That's really cool!" she unquestioningly replied.

..Was her name TRASK

[ 02-10-2002: Message edited by: Dan Larson ]

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great snow-man story... i’ll remember that one.

and good point tom, i'm NOT implying that ALL climbers are cynical (isn't that OBVIOUS?!)... anyway, climbers (and some might add alaskans), seem FAR more likely to give public servants an earful about what they think (good or bad), than the average park visitor... or at least that's been my experience (and the experience of other people i've known). i think that some of the posts on this web site lay testimony to this statement too.

i bet there are a million, "they'll believe anything stories," perhaps that would make a good thread?

hey dan, you're totally right about taking the bone and running with it... perhaps "lurking" is the better (safer) way to go?

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quote:

Originally posted by JRCO:
Speaking of permits and climbing rangers, what kind of authority due rangers have if they catch you without a permit? Can they give you a fine? Can they force you to leave the mountain? Can they arrest you? I met a ranger on Hood who thougt we could do all of the above.

ahh i do remember that little short guy....he did have quite the power trip going on.....sheesh short people.....

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quote:

Originally posted by Mike Gauthier:

perhaps "lurking" is the better (safer) way to go?

But you'd be missing out on all the fun and you could never get to be alpine buddy.

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