Mt Whitney Webcam
Mt Williamson Webcam
Feature Topics
Shout Box

Who's Online
0 registered (), 12 Guests and 8 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
2016 Members
12 Forums
3910 Topics
39085 Posts

Max Online: 382 @ 11/07/12 05:45 AM
Page 1 of 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 >
Topic Options
#18206 - 09/10/11 01:58 PM Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
Okay, this topic is not as glamorous as reviewing new gear or epic trail reports, but everyone seems to have an opinion about carrying Waste Accumulation and Gel (WAG) bags up and down Mt Whitney. This thread will give some background info, share some info, and open up discussion on a sensitive subject.

For background info, there are 2 essential reports that explain a lot.

1) Inyo NF "Environment Assessment (EA) - Mt Whitney Human Waste Management" Jan 2004.

This 50-page EA is step one in the NEPA process, the way federal projects must be reviewed per Nat Env Protection Act. This EA describes all practical solutions for replacing the toilets including the "do nothing" alternative. Step two in the NEPA process is to publish a decision document for public review that explains why the preferred alternative was selected. In this case, no decision document was published, therefore there was no public review. Instead, the former Inyo director (he's gone now) issued a 1-page memo instituting the wag bag policy. The EA report is no longer on the Inyo website. I have a copy if someone is interested. Perhaps this public domain document can be uploaded somewhere.

2.) Second report is, "Performance Evaluation of Backcountry Solar Toilets," by Joe Arnold, Rocky Mtn NP Engineer, dated Jan 2010.

http://www.americanalpineclub.org/uploads/mce_uploads/Files/PDF/Solar_Toilet_Report.pdf

This excellent 21-page report describes 27 years of success with their solar toilets on Long Peak. This location is very similar to Mt Whitney in terms of elevation and high visitor use. The report includes engineered drawings and cost estimates. This report demonstrates that solar toilets are a viable alternative at Mt. Whitney, which some people argue about because the old design was so crappy (pun intended).

In my opinion, wag bags are not the best solution to this problem at Mt Whitney. I'm sympathetic to the heroic efforts of the Rangers trying to keep the old toilets going. Any backcountry toilet needs regular maintenance but it must have been terrible work due to the bad design of the old system. Rangers have more important things to do and the maintenance should have been contracted out like at Long's Peak. There are places where only a wag bag makes sense, but on Mt Whitney they have the option of toilets. With the heavy use involved, I think toilets would have been the best option. Wag bags are the easiest and cheapest for Inyo, but are they really the best overall solution?



Edited by SierraNevada (09/10/11 02:58 PM)

Top
#18207 - 09/10/11 03:01 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
Bee Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Northern California
I have been following your discussion with Ken on this topic over here and have found some of the points to be very interesting.

If the technology works, clean-up is "a breeze", and the solar toilets can handle the "load", than I would certainly rather not see the mess of wag bags strewn about.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

Top
#18208 - 09/10/11 03:18 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Bee]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
They require regular maintenance, which is a key to any successful backcountry system. I wouldn't consider any system that handles this many people to be a "breeze" including picking up wag bags left behind on the trail and in bushes. They use 2 llamas on a weekly basis at Long's Peak. Yosemite uses mules for their maintenance.

If you've ever used the modern solar toilets at Yosemite's Nevada Falls, or Little Yosemite Valley, or the Grand Canyon (or at some other modern design) you know this system can work very well. It's more challenging at higher elevation, but it can be done successfully.

Top
#18210 - 09/10/11 03:50 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
Bee Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Northern California
I should clarify what I meant by "a breeze" -- meaning that the waste is fully composted, so that there is no excessive odor when handling the maintenance procedures.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

Top
#18213 - 09/10/11 04:30 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Bee]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: Bee
I should clarify what I meant by "a breeze" -- meaning that the waste is fully composted, so that there is no excessive odor when handling the maintenance procedures.


The people maintaining modern solar toilets could give you the best answer to your question. I happened upon the Nevada Falls toilet being maintained once. He showed me the system and what he had to do. The worker (a contract employee) seemed fine with it and I didn't notice any objectionable smell. Rangers have more important things to do. I think a lot of the objection to toilets came from their bad experience with an obsolete design that wasn't working.


Edited by SierraNevada (09/10/11 04:34 PM)

Top
#18219 - 09/11/11 05:41 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
wbtravis Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1107
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
I know the MMWT is not a wilderness experience but it should not be a WAG bag tour either. I've only been up there twice since the solar latrines were removed, the first time was in May 2007, so that doesn't count, the last time was September 2009 and there were a dozen bags left along the trail between the summit and Whitney Portal. My guess is for each one of these there were 10 hidden gems.

I have spoken to and have had email correspondence with Garry Oye, who was the prime mover in having the solar latrine taken out along the MMWT. I think the overwhelming reason they are no longer there is he did not want structures in a wilderness area. I have spoken to a few people knowledgeable in how solar latrines work and the consensus was solar latrines were not practical in this climate...they did not compost at a rate that kept up with those using them. Another reason, a specious reason in my mind, was that Mr. Oye did not want his employees and volunteers near these hazardous waste sites.

Top
#18232 - 09/11/11 10:20 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: wbtravis]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
It would have been nice for Mr Oye to complete the NEPA process that was started with the EA report describe above. The NEPA process is where all of these issues could've been debated in the usual structured framework with public review. His 1-page memo instituting his policy makes it harder to garner public support for WAG bags and generally undermines his decision, in my opinion. I hear Mr Oye is back in Washington now.

Please read the report linked above that demonstrates 27 years of successful performance of a solar toilet system at 12,760 ft on Long's Peak, a 14'er in Colorado Rocky Mtn NP with similar heavy use as Whitney. This is higher elevation and higher latitude than Trail Camp. There is no question that a modern solar toilet system is practical and could be a success at Whitney. Perhaps Mr Oye was not provided accurate information, which is another reason why he should have completed NEPA to get a 360deg perspective.

Maintenance could and I think should be contracted out to free up Ranger's time, as is done by the National Park Service. The term "hazardous waste sites" makes toilets sound like a nuclear site. Human waste is dealt with by thousands of people across the country every day. The guys pumping out porta potties are not wearing space suits, but it does require special handling. Composted waste is much less objectionable and the volume and weight is greatly reduced.

Here's a link to a funny website with dozens (or hundreds?) of outdoor latrines in National Parks and Forests. If you scroll down several pages of photos, you see 30 "scenic" toilets along the JMT. Backcountry toilets are appropriate and commonly used for high impact areas. With 200 people on the trail on any given day, I think people appreciate a toilet system and are willing to accept the compromise on a tiny portion of the 22 mile trail. They were there on Whitney for decades. If they had only been of better design...

http://wildernessvagabond.com/scenictoilets/scenictoilets.htm




Edited by SierraNevada (09/11/11 10:23 AM)

Top
#18270 - 09/11/11 09:18 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
Steve C Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 5206
Loc: Fresno, CA
The Scenic Toilets of Inner Earth page is missing the Mt Whitney summit toilet pictures.

I used a Google images search (Whitney summit toilet) and came up with these:
From BrianRxm - Sierra Nevada Peaks, Mount Whitney:

I believe the walls were destroyed by vandals in 1978.


This from SummitPost: Whitney Summit

Caption: Craig on the infamous toilet at the summit of Whitney, with a nice view of Williamson to the left. Here one can have the opportunity to take the highest shit in the lower 48 wink Just imagine, for first time climbers of Whitney who come up the Mountaineer's route, the first thing you could see on the summit after topping out from the class 3 is this!!   This thing doesn't exist anymore.


From Climbing the "Mountaineer's Route" On Mt Whitney

07-SEP-2004   The highest toilet in the continental USA! (Has since been removed)


Harvey Lankford's picture of the remains of the toilet being carried away:

Top
#18273 - 09/12/11 03:49 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Steve C]
Fishmonger Offline
WHA member

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 855
Loc: Madison, WI
not the best shot, but you see the 1988 summit toilet in the far right - it had some sort of wood fence around it, with open view to the west



Solar toilet at Trial Camp in 1989

_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#18276 - 09/12/11 05:56 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Fishmonger]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 161
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: Fishmonger
not the best shot, but you see the 1988 summit toilet in the far right - it had some sort of wood fence around it, with open view to the west...

That's the greeters chair for the mountaineer's route.

Dale B. Dalrymple

Top
#18279 - 09/12/11 07:19 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: dbd]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 729
Loc: Los Angeles
SierraNevada, the one without the guts to post under their name, although claiming expertise as a "professional" engineer, I'm calling you out.

You repeatedly claim that the USFS failed to follow the process of environmental impact assessment, but do not provide ANY substantiation of your position, just repeated blather.

Same as duplicating this thread from the other Whitney board, but doing so under ANOTHER pseudonym, without bothering to mention you are doing so. Blather.

Or....trolling.....

Done responding to your stuff.

Top
#18280 - 09/12/11 07:34 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Ken]
Steve C Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 5206
Loc: Fresno, CA
I invited him to post the thread here, since threads on the topic have been deleted in the past from the other forum.

It seems reasonable to ask why the environmental assessment process was circumvented.

Top
#18298 - 09/12/11 03:46 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Ken]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
SierraNevada, the one without the guts to post under their name, although claiming expertise as a "professional" engineer, I'm calling you out.

Ken,
I'm going to rise above this name calling and assume you are bigger than that. If we separate fact from opinion, I think we can continue a vigorous discussion and keep it civil. I hope so because I value your experience and your concern for all things Whitney.

You repeatedly claim that the USFS failed to follow the process of environmental impact assessment, but do not provide ANY substantiation of your position, just repeated blather.

Simple question, where are the documents completing the Environmental Assessment (EA) per NEPA? The EA is not complete and it vanished from the internet. If you have a link to it, let us know. There are 2 ways the EA could have been completed. Has either of these paths been completed?

1)A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) together with an official decision document meeting NEPA protocol.
2)A full blown EIS

I highlighted where the process stalled out (as far as I can tell) in this flow chart:



Source:
Citizens Guide to NEPA

Top
#18336 - 09/13/11 03:58 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
The Solar Toilet thread on the Whitney Portal Store Forum seems to have vanished today. This happened a few year again just when the discussion focused on how Inyo pursued environmental compliance for their decision to go with Alternative 5 - Wag Bags.

Since this issue is striking such a raw nerve, and since there is no proper documentation forthcoming, and since the starting documents have vanished from the internet, I'm getting the impression they really didn't follow environmental law when they initiated their policy. Any one else getting that sense?

Top
#18342 - 09/13/11 07:16 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 161
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada

...
Since this issue is striking such a raw nerve, and since there is no proper documentation forthcoming, and since the starting documents have vanished from the internet, I'm getting the impression they really didn't follow environmental law when they initiated their policy. Any one else getting that sense?


You presume that there was a reason to bring the NEPA process to a completion. Such actions can be withdrawn when there is no longer any party proposing to implement an action requiring a NEPA process.

I don't think that removing a disfunctional sewage system requires a NEPA process. I don't think that requiring the minimum possible method to implement an environmental protection required by law necessitates the NEPA process.

Someday, if someone successfully lobbies Congress for funding, staffing and direction or otherwise authorizes and funds a design for a replacement sewage process for the Mt Whitney corridor of the John Muir Wilderness, a NEPA process will be appropriate. Until then, no one is wasting the money, no one should be.

Dale B. Dalrymple

Top
#18343 - 09/13/11 07:46 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
Bee Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
The Solar Toilet thread on the Whitney Portal Store Forum seems to have vanished today. This happened a few year again just when the discussion focused on how Inyo pursued environmental compliance for their decision to go with Alternative 5 - Wag Bags.


I do not believe that there was anything focused about that (original) thread, rather, it had turned into a 6 page rant about....toilets. I do believe that if one truly wants to get something done, then addressing the issue in the proper venue is the way to go. Pages upon pages of "opinion" on a message board was not the route to take, as the WPSMB was probably meant as a forum for friendly exchange of beta, ideas, photos, etc., and more specifically, to promote the facilities that the board is named for. It is/was not exactly the most "refreshing" topic to lead off with when one is trying to run a business, so for that, I do not blame Doug, Sr., a bit for removing the well trodden, bordering on overtrodden rant about toilets -- no conspiracy in that.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

Top
#18346 - 09/13/11 08:12 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: dbd]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: dbd

You presume that there was a reason to bring the NEPA process to a completion. Such actions can be withdrawn when there is no longer any party proposing to implement an action requiring a NEPA process.


I would agree if they didn't actually do anything. What they did was implement Alternative 5 of the Environmental Assessment. That alternative (wag bags) had potential impacts identified. It's not normal to implement any alternative in any EA without completing the process.

The idea of NEPA is to engage the public in the decision making. That didn't seem to happen.

Top
#18347 - 09/13/11 08:18 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Bee]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: Bee
I do not blame Doug, Sr., a bit for removing the well trodden, boardering on overtrodden rant about toilets -- no conspiracy in that.

Solar Toilets was the 2nd "hottest" thread on that board when it was zapped, behind some interesting AMS discussion. I agree it's not glamorous stuff, but wag bags affect everyone who hikes the trail.

I guess it was just a coincidence it happened again as the discussion began discussing environmental compliance.

Top
#18355 - 09/14/11 06:11 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 161
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
...
Solar Toilets was the 2nd "hottest" thread on that board when it was zapped, behind some interesting AMS discussion. ...

There is a difference between quality and quantity.
Quote:
I guess it was just a coincidence it happened again as the discussion began discussing environmental compliance.

No coincidence. Just the point where irresposible posters began the conspiracy theory innuendo.

Dale B. Dalrymple

Top
#18356 - 09/14/11 06:46 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: dbd]
SierraNevada Offline
WHA member

Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 781
Loc: NorCal
Everyone is entitled to their opinion about quality, but these threads have (or had) a lot of links to reports, photos, and other information. Over 300 views in less than 4 days here on this board. I think people are interested because this issue affects them very directly.

What keeps you coming back?

Top
Page 1 of 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 >