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Lucky Larry

Argument in favor of permanet trail/climb markers

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We are simply "loving it to death".

 

Our pursuit of wilderness inevitably leads to its destruction.

 

My parents took a horsepacking trip in AZ a few years back and one of their favorite stories, is about their Native American guide. Every time they saw a rock cairn he had to dismount and scatter the the rocks. Apparently he felt they represented an evil spirit disturbing the natural order.

 

I still like the occasional trail marker to let me know I'm not wandering off into Canada, but I'm one of those new school urban adventurists with no sense of the purity gained through true hardman epicness.

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I consider myself an environmentalist but I also consider myself a scientist and a critical thinker. The evidence shows that the idea of wilderness is a western myth ... people traveled through, lived in and even maintained many of the places we consider "wild" and our ancestors chased them out with disease, guns and now 14 day stay limits. Our mountains looked a lot more like the habitated Andes or even the Alps before the white man arrived.

 

http://westinstenv.org/histwl/category/the-wilderness-myth/

http://www.williamcronon.net/writing/Trouble_with_Wilderness_Main.html

http://www.amazon.com/Dispossessing-Wilderness-Indian-Removal-National/dp/0195142438

 

On a personal level, I have found (and left) arrowheads and other signs of long use along high "game" trails on unnamed peaks and have noted that, in dry country ranging from Eastern WA to the great basin to Utah, many hidden springs and watering holes are marked clearly with simple petroglyphs.

 

I don't see trail markers as that different, and I'd rather them be rock piles or well made signs then neon grid tape that becomes brittle, flakes and blows everywhere.

 

813932732_6909183d68.jpg

Cordillera huayhuash, Peru

3966815593_ca9a9d6f51.jpg

Sky Valley, WA

 

 

 

 

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I'm one of those new school urban adventurists with no sense of the purity gained through true hardman epicness.

 

Again I think the point is missed. I like a hut as much as the next guy, and trams and bolted rap lines and well marked trails. May be even more than the next guys as it all gets harder for me physically.

 

But do we choose to make it easier for us at the moment or preserve it as best we can for someone else in the future?

 

I dumb it down to this example for myself. 20 years ago I spotted a awesome line on a short, slightly over hanging wall of beautiful granite. I worked the moves on a TR...I could actually do a few of them in time. But in the 50m of climbing a few places were just beyond my skill or what I figured would ever be my skill. A natural line that could have been enhanced (read chipped) with little fanfare and no one would ever notice. But even chipped the climb would still have been within a letter grade or two of what I was capable of climbing for me to get up it.

 

So I intentionally decided to leave it to someone else. The FA had lost it's priority. The route beccame more important to me. Imagine my dissappointment to come back 10 years later and find the same line climbed and the same connectinng holds chipped....and the climbing at no more than a letter grade or two above what the FA party was capable of at the time? And sadly the FA climber is now capable of climbing not just a few letter grades harder now but at least a full grade may be two plus several letter grades harder that his chipped route.

 

The reason I tell this story is I think we need to think and act long term. And I wasn't intentionally when I walked away from that wall, I just figured there would always be someone better than me that wouldn't have to. But no one got the chance. We need to think about what we do and how it will impact the next generation and several after that.

 

I think the world we live in is what we make of it.

 

That wall could have been one of the first 5.14s or harder in Washington. One that Rudi's 12 year old kid could have flashed, instead it is just one of many chipped 5.12s of little consequence.

 

No matter our differing thoughts on the subject it is a good conversation to be having.

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yes, our view of a natural untouched wilderness free of human influence is false. Native Americans certainly exerted large pressures on the landscape (burning grasslands to aid in hunting maintaining prairie ecosystems comes to mind), but their influences result from their actions to sustain themselves and while it might not always have worked out in nature's favor(extinction of the north american megafauna) I think it was certainly carried out with a more respectful and benevolent attitude than our current relationship with the land. We on the other hand do not gain nourishment(screw your hippy "I climb to live" mantra) from the landscape, we consume recreation and aim to conquer in our adventures. Our actions are not carried out with the thought of how to live in the wilderness, but with how to obtain maximum enjoyment and get the hell back to civilization. We are simply "traveling through" and do not concern ourselves with the stewardship required to live in and maintain a healthy environment.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the view that urban and natural environments are divided is wrong and thinking we should keep trail markers out of the wilderness to preserve their integrity is akin to thinking that interstates don't really need painted lanes because drivers will figure out where to drive on their own.

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I like a hut as much as the next guy, and trams and bolted rap lines and well marked trails. May be even more than the next guys as it all gets harder for me physically.

 

But do we choose to make it easier for us at the moment or preserve it as best we can for someone else in the future?

 

 

Dane, my position is not of installing huts to make climbing more comfortable or easier, but to preserve and hopefully improve the fragile alpine ecosystem. I think using huts and some type of waste management system would be better in the long term than the current ethos of multiple camping sites, feces and TP under rocks, multiple social trails, etc.

Edited by danielpatricksmith

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What was required for humans to use and live off the land is no longer required today. We have the physical ability to treat our environment differently.

 

It takes very little effort to recognise true wilderness, even if the mine tailings, old logging roads and physical debris litters the landscape today of most every "wilderness" in CONUS.

 

The concept of development comes from a couple of sources....those in a hurry to use the resource now and those with physical and time limitations that slow their use of the same resources.

 

Same results long term...the "wilderness" resource is not easily renewable once signifigantly changed and over populated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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my position is not of installing huts to make climbing more comfortable or easier, but to preserve and hopefully improve the fragile alpine ecosystem.

 

Agreed Daniel. Even though both would be immediate results. But you have to recognise the impact a hut makes on an area as well. Hut at Colchuck? Would mean certain year around use at Colchuck far out pacing what is done there today.

 

Do you really think a couple of chained rap lines off Dragontail would be far behind?

 

(I might be the first in line with a drill) ;)

 

Good discussion.

 

And I agree on the waste issues a hut would solve...IF you can manage the extra use/waste it will generate.

 

 

 

 

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I think using huts and some type of waste management system would be better in the long term than the current ethos of multiple camping sites, feces and TP under rocks, multiple social trails, etc.

 

While hiking (tramping!) the southern alps of new zealand, we stayed in huts all along the way. At the time, staying in huts was required, and camping along dispersed campsites was not allowed or at least discouraged. The impact on the land was less this way and I wish we encouraged it here too.

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our view of a natural untouched wilderness free of human influence is false.

 

i think grinter nails it here. our presence changes things, and knowing that means we need to consider what changes we should make. more people are going into the mountains all the time and we need to figure out how to manage the traffic. the canadians, europeans, and kiwis have all come up with some plans and put them into effect, which means that we are in a position to look at what they've done and go from there in developing our own plan.

 

the big hurdle for us is that those other cultures seem to have a sense of social responsibility and obligation that we don't have, hence the question of "who pays".

 

kudos to oldlarry for introducing this topic.

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"the canadians, europeans, and kiwis have all come up with some plans and put them into effect"

 

All plans vitually put into effect by the Alpine Guides Associations of every country mentioned. All with long ties and traditions founded by the mtn guides in France, Swizerland and Italy before WWI to develope tourism and put bread on their tables in a environment it was tough to do so by farming.

 

Nepal is an other good example of human impact on the environment and what people are willing to do when they are hungry. We have many more options available than just repeating what the alpine countries of Europe have done.

 

I have long thought the Canadian Park Service was a good example. But they too are being stressed by the economical and ecological concerns of wanting to bring more people into the wilderness.

 

There is one reason there are huts at Muir...and it isn't the park service or to save lives.

 

I am not saying huts are a bad thing just to realise what they bring to the party besides the comforts of bed and breakfast.

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I won't attempt to suggest who pays, but one place some demonstration huts could potentially be built is on the south side of Baker. Recreation Area as opposed to Wilderness Area. Certainly a heavy use area.

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Do you really think a couple of chained rap lines off Dragontail would be far behind?

 

 

What's that? chairlift up Aasgard, you say? :shock:

 

I think there is this mentality that if we do one thing to alter the wilderness it begins a cascade of slow and subtle degradation (notice we've allready gone from trail markers to alpine huts) that ends up turning our natural playground into the urban wasteland we seek to escape. I agree that this is a possibility, but if done properly recreational "improvements" to an area can be far better than everyone meandering around crapping where we please. I don't know firsthand, but i've heard Smith was a trashy place before the state park started managing it and it looked pretty darn nice to me this summer.

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"the canadians, europeans, and kiwis have all come up with some plans and put them into effect"

 

All plans vitually put into effect by the Alpine Guides Associations of every country mentioned.

 

With the exception of some commercial backcountry chalets, eg. Reudi Beglinger's operation in the Selkirks, that are operated by companies employing alpine guides, this is not true for Canada. It is certainly not true for the majority of alpine huts in either BC or Alberta.

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dane, my point was that we are in a position to look at what others have done by way of solving this issue and see what has worked well and what has worked poorly, then choose accordingly. i certainly am not saying we should just do what the euros have done.

 

chained rap lines off dragontail are hardly the equivalent of a chairlift up aaagard pass, as grinter has pointed out, but arguably better than tat around every horn of rock.

 

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This may well be the most intelligent and civilized thread I've read in a long time.

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This may well be the most intelligent and civilized thread I've read in a long time.

 

:tup::brew:

 

It is about time!

 

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This may well be the most intelligent and civilized thread I've read in a long time.

 

I'm sure SummitloserDP will shit all over it in ten seconds or less.

 

Kulshan cabin on the north side of Baker was before my time out here, anyone know why that one got torn down? Didn't WWU "own" it?

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The best example I can think of would be the mtneers creek approach to Stuart. I bet everyone has been lost at least once hiking in or out that way and taking the time to mark it with those reflective markers would be rad.

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the big hurdle for us is that those other cultures seem to have a sense of social responsibility and obligation that we don't have, hence the question of "who pays".

 

I think the social responsibility is going out into the wilderness with the knowledge not to F it up more. Nobody needs to pay for that.

 

Interesting how this discussion started with cairns near SEWS, and has turned into huts etc.

 

I can't say I'm in favor of a hut anywhere in Washington. I don't see how it would really manage ecosystem destruction in most places. Unless of course say in Boston Basin you had a hut and it was required to stay in the hut. Otherwise you'll have people not wanting to stay there and setting up rock walls to surround their tents. Then you have both eyesores, a hut and rock walls.

Multiple trails in that area are due to people seeking safer locations to cross the creek. Can't cut that down without a bridge of some sort I'd say... (Not advocating for a bridge, but if you want people to cross in only one location, I don't see another way.)

 

I think some people had some great points on here about multiple trails getting worn into alpine meadows. Some times the trail on snow if different than the one on exposed meadow. People keep on the snow until there is a melted section and then they tramp over the meadow to the next patch of snow. The party following their footsteps in the snow does the same... This is one thing that RNP does attempt to fix with numerous bamboo wands and signs... Only this erosion happens in far more places than near Paradise.

 

I think more or better toilets, and obvious or signed toilets would be helpful too. To use Dane's example of Vantage, a lot of that mess comes from people not prepared to deuce in the wild. Then they use an overloaded honey bucket and things go downhill from there. A situation like that would be helped with a permanent solution. As a steward of the land, I go to Vantage and expect to pack out my excrement.

 

The signage at Vantage is pretty helpful and should keep down destruction, but I don't know why it doesn't?

 

Education would go a long way in all of these scenarios. I mean who leaves a turd next to a tree at a belay on the Tooth? I am sure it was someone unprepared for that situation, both education, and equipment.

 

Even with education you'll have some bad apples; those who don't care, or don't care to learn, or navigationally impaired.

 

My two cents.

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the big hurdle for us is that those other cultures seem to have a sense of social responsibility and obligation that we don't have, hence the question of "who pays".

 

I think the social responsibility is going out into the wilderness with the knowledge not to F it up more. Nobody needs to pay for that.

 

Interesting how this discussion started with cairns near SEWS, and has turned into huts etc.

 

I can't say I'm in favor of a hut anywhere in Washington. I don't see how it would really manage ecosystem destruction in most places. Unless of course say in Boston Basin you had a hut and it was required to stay in the hut. Otherwise you'll have people not wanting to stay there and setting up rock walls to surround their tents. Then you have both eyesores, a hut and rock walls.

Multiple trails in that area are due to people seeking safer locations to cross the creek. Can't cut that down without a bridge of some sort I'd say... (Not advocating for a bridge, but if you want people to cross in only one location, I don't see another way.)

 

I think some people had some great points on here about multiple trails getting worn into alpine meadows. Some times the trail on snow if different than the one on exposed meadow. People keep on the snow until there is a melted section and then they tramp over the meadow to the next patch of snow. The party following their footsteps in the snow does the same... This is one thing that RNP does attempt to fix with numerous bamboo wands and signs... Only this erosion happens in far more places than near Paradise.

 

I think more or better toilets, and obvious or signed toilets would be helpful too. To use Dane's example of Vantage, a lot of that mess comes from people not prepared to deuce in the wild. Then they use an overloaded honey bucket and things go downhill from there. A situation like that would be helped with a permanent solution. As a steward of the land, I go to Vantage and expect to pack out my excrement.

 

The signage at Vantage is pretty helpful and should keep down destruction, but I don't know why it doesn't?

 

Education would go a long way in all of these scenarios. I mean who leaves a turd next to a tree at a belay on the Tooth? I am sure it was someone unprepared for that situation, both education, and equipment.

 

Even with education you'll have some bad apples; those who don't care, or don't care to learn, or navigationally impaired.

 

My two cents.

 

this post actually demonstrates my point. "I think the social responsibility is going out into the wilderness with the knowledge not to F it up more. Nobody needs to pay for that." in other words, we can get this for free if everyone just behaved properly. there is no doubt that this is trus, but how do we get them to behave properly? "Education would go a long way in all of these scenarios." also true, but how do we get these yahoos educated? it happens magically? or do we, as a society or a user group -- collectively in some sense -- have to be willing to pony up a bit of money to make it happen? educating everyone is a great idea but it isn't going to just happen by itself.

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Couple of quick points. RE: Drus' comments on guides being involved? The Alpine clubs build a majority of the huts I think..but could easily be wrong...just going from old and not very precise memory. Anyone have something more to add on that idea?

 

Professional guides are generally well represented in the Alpine club memberships. And they should be as both are good stewards of the environment but with differing agendas at times. As an example...as a guide I want huts...as a private climber I don't want huts or commercial guided parties in the huts.

 

John's comments on Stuart? Most everyone would love a good trail or reflectors when you are wandering around in the dark or in a nasty storm. Would a set of reflectors lower the experince walking in and out of mtneer creek in August in day light? Don't know...may be, may be not. Since I am likely to go in and out in the dark...sure I'd like 'um. But right answer? Is there one?

 

Good/better trails are a awesome idea as are bridges were needed. Easy decent routes via chained raps? Have you walked down Asgard with a foot of snow over the scree in the dark? I'm all for a fixed rap route to avoid that again.

 

but how do we get these yahoos educated? it happens magically? or do we, as a society or a user group -- collectively in some sense -- have to be willing to pony up a bit

 

If you limit visitation, you limit the number of folks that need to be educated. Limit the numbers of people and you limit the over use. Not that I'd want to do that but I think our society has to take on the responsibilty.

 

I don't think anyone here argues that point (that something needs to be done to lower our impact)....but how should we impliment controls and what controls are required to do so?

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I'd like to point out that huts and marked trails are not a uniquely foreign institution - look at New Hampshire. In the White Mountains, there is a network of huts connected by an excellently-maintained trail network, all run by the AMC (and to a certain extent, the RMC and the Dartmouth Outing Club).

 

The Whites are an area with a lot of challenging, remote, terrain, but they're close to a lot of big population centers and get absolutely slammed with traffic at all times of year. The AMC has done a great job building trails, educational exhibits, and infrastructure that focus the impact and keep people from trampling and ruining the very limited and fragile alpine environment up there. There's only a few square miles of alpine terrain in New England, and it's in pretty good shape considering the pressure on it (compare to the trashed and eroded summit of, say, Saddle Mountain in the Oregon Coast Range).

 

Now I'm not suggesting that the Mountaineers should do everything that the AMC has done, and obviously the environment and challenges of the Northwest are very different, but it's something to think about. When I first moved to the Northwest, I thought it was weird that the government does almost all the trailbuilding and maintenance in the Cascades. In NH, where I started climbing and backpacking, much of the education and infrastructure was done by dedicated volunteers.

 

Edit: obviously the WTA does a lot of good work too.

Edited by nkane

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voted "best discussion I've seen on CC.com for a while".

 

 

Saddle mountain? I had to google a few pictures, but yes I "climbed" that mountain! Complete guard rails around the summit.

 

It is actually a nice hike.

 

I don't remember much about the summit other than its got guard rail all around it and I had to immediately summit the guard rail too. Also, the view was pretty nice from there.

 

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The best example I can think of would be the mtneers creek approach to Stuart. I bet everyone has been lost at least once hiking in or out that way and taking the time to mark it with those reflective markers would be rad.

 

Getting lost in this quagmire is part of the wilderness experience. It's a matter of pride to stroll right through it on subsequent trips.

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