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#41711 - 02/06/15 11:52 PM PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7262
Loc: Fresno, CA
The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) has posted new rules and regulations on their web site. Here is the link:
          PCT Long-distance Permit FAQ

In the past, they charged PCT hikers a $15 Whitney Zone access fee (which was forwarded to Inyo N.F.), for anyone who might want to hike out to Whintey Portal via the main trail. They have completely eliminated that from their permits, telling hikers that their permit no longer gives them access to hike down the main trail to Whitney Portal. This access fee was often mistaken as a fee to hike to the Whitney summit, which was never the case.

Here is what the new rules say:
Quote:
Can I summit Mount Whitney?

From the west where the PCT is: PCT hikers and riders may go from the PCT to the summit of Mt. Whitney and back to the PCT. There is no fee, nor any additional permits needed.

To/from the east near Lone Pine, Calif.: The PCT Long-Distance Permit does not provide access east from the Mount Whitney summit to Whitney Portal. Additionally, the PCT Long-Distance Permit does not provide access to the trail from Whitney Portal. Access into the Inyo National Forest Mount Whitney Zone and down the Mount Whitney Trail is no longer allowed to holders of the PCT Long-Distance Permit. No permits will be issued for trips originating from Whitney Portal. For information on entering the Inyo NF Whitney Zone, visit www.fs.usda.gov/inyo or contact Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permit Reservation Office, 351 Pacu Lane, Ste 200, Bishop, CA 93514 or (760) 873-2483.

The other change this year is to limit starters at or near the Mexican border to 50 people per day. High number last year was April 1 (>100 starters), while March 31 and April 2 had only a handful, so the 50 person limit should spread out easily.

I spoke to two PCTA staff people and they indicated the Whitney changes were made on their own, to take pressure off the Whitney trail.

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#41714 - 02/08/15 06:59 AM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: Steve C]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
There was a question posted about this very issue recently from a hiker planning to resupply at the Portal. The announcement language seems to indicate that Inyo NF was allowing this resupply option, but is no longer doing so.

If they were charging all PCT hikers the $15 access fee, which was then given to Inyo, then Inyo NF just lost about $20,000/yr by this change. That special fee money would be legally required to benefit the Whitney Zone. Considering the low percentage of PCTA hikers that actually go down and back up the MMWT, this was probably a good deal for Inyo financially, while providing some flexibility for some hikers to resupply. I'm guessing there was an incident or incidents that precipitated this change. Or maybe there were just a lot more hikers using this option. Another impact of the "Wild" effect?

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#41716 - 02/08/15 11:11 AM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: Steve C]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
It's government stupidity at its finest. This ranks right up there with the exit permit.

How many through hikers per day go over this pass in May-June? Most will go over Cottonwood for resupply and either go back that way or over Trail Crest because of the ease of getting to WP. There will be no $15 fee because these folks are walk ups. Just more dollars spent writing up permits. Just let the folks go over with the permits they have. I can guarantee these few people will not ruin the wilderness experience of the MMWT quota crowd.


Edited by wbtravis (02/08/15 11:11 AM)

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#41725 - 02/08/15 08:36 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: wbtravis]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1552
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: wbtravis
It's government stupidity at its finest. This ranks right up there with the exit permit.


Might want to read the original story again, there WB: this was the PCTA's decision.
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#41727 - 02/08/15 11:23 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: saltydog]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Salty, it doesn't seem that clear cut. The PCTA wrote, "Access into the Inyo National Forest Mount Whitney Zone and down the Mount Whitney Trail is no longer allowed to holders of the PCT Long-Distance Permit." But the PCTA doesn't have any authority to allow, or not allow, access to the Whitney Zone.

Seems like there must be more to this story. Why would the PCTA eliminate this option? Perhaps some people didn't want to pay the $15 and that screwed it up for everyone else, since they probably couldn't differentiate who paid the Whitney fee on the Long-Distance Permit vs who didn't pay. Maybe that's it.

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#41728 - 02/08/15 11:45 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: SierraNevada]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7262
Loc: Fresno, CA
The two people I spoke to gave several reasons:

* PCT thru-hikers seldom use Whitney Portal for resupply. Most go from Walker Pass to Kearsarge. It is easier to walk out via Horseshoe Meadows, too.

* Many PCT hikers were paying for the permit thinking they needed it to summit Mt Whitney.

* PCTA felt their hikers shouldn't add to the crowding already on the Whitney Main Trail.

They did not mention any troubling incidents or anything like that.

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#41730 - 02/09/15 06:47 AM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: Steve C]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Sorry about belaboring the point here, but #1 and #3 don't synch up - if few PCT hikers are resupplying at WP (as we assumed), then they aren't really adding much to the crowding. #2 sounds like the PCTA misunderstood the permit requirements until now. To write that "it is no longer allowed" implies a change in regulations or interpretation of regulations, which is beyond the authority of the PCTA. Poor choice of words I suppose. It still leaves open the question of whether or not a PCT hiker has an option to pay $15 directly to Inyo to resupply at WP. I'm guessing that option was never fully legit in the first place.

The end result is that Inyo fee income to manage the Whitney Zone just dropped about $20,000/yr, and we're even less likely to see PCTer's on the east side.


Edited by SierraNevada (02/09/15 06:53 AM)

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#41740 - 02/09/15 05:21 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: saltydog]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Hmmm...how can an association without the government's permission issue a permit or make a rule? The government is involved...it has to be. Then, there is the enforcement issue, who is going to do the enforcement? The next to non-existent LE rangers.

As for crossing a pass to get into Lone Pine in May or June...that has to be Cottonwood. Getting to a 13,600' with minimal gear and in a lot of cases minimal to zero skills does not make a lot of sense. I have met up with thru-hikers crossing Cottonwood for resupply a few times in June. Even in big snow years this pass in manageable in early June. Something Trail Crest, I am sure, is not.

Again, this is stupid as stupid can get.


Edited by wbtravis (02/09/15 05:29 PM)

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#41742 - 02/09/15 06:22 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: wbtravis]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1552
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
WB: As I said: read the post. It plainly states that the PCTA simply stopped offering the WZ resup permit option, on its own, to help take pressure off the zone. Nothing to do with making a rule. And PCTA issues the PCT permits under an interagency agreement.

What's the big deal? You said yourself the Trail Crest is not a great option for resup in June any way. Doesn't affect Cottonwood. Hard to understand exactly what your objection is here.
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#41743 - 02/09/15 06:29 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: SierraNevada]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1552
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
SN: Where do you get the $20,000 figure? That would be the equivalent of over 1300 PCT hikers resupplying through the WZ. I don't know the actual numbers, but I would be amazed if a tenth that many PCT hikers actually resup through the zone every year.
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#41748 - 02/10/15 06:06 AM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: Steve C]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Quote:
And PCTA issues the PCT permits under an interagency agreement.


Exactly. Some people thought the new 50 person limit per day at the border was the PCTA over stepping their authority but it's the Forest Service that is implementing the changes and the PCTA complies with their regulations when issuing permits.

There will naturally be some over lapping due to no integrated system between the two showing the number of permits issued so if the local Forest Service issues 15 permits to local section hikers and the PCTA meets their 50 then it is what it is.
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#41750 - 02/10/15 08:59 AM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: saltydog]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: saltydog
SN: Where do you get the $20,000 figure? That would be the equivalent of over 1300 PCT hikers resupplying through the WZ. I don't know the actual numbers, but I would be amazed if a tenth that many PCT hikers actually resup through the zone every year.

That was the assumption that I made - that the $15 fee was mandatory for the PCT Long Distance Permit (PCT-LDP), whether they resupplied or not. There were 1,400 permits issued in 2014. That's $21K based on those assumptions. But are those assumptions valid? I don't know, but I could've stated my assumptions better.

If the Whitney Zone access were an option on the PCT-LDP, then the permit would have to identify who paid the $15 and who didn't. Kind of like getting special tags on your fishing or hunting license, or motorcycle cert on your drivers license. That's why I assumed it was just a fee all PCT hikers paid with the Long Distance permit.

Maybe someone who actually went through the old PCT-LDP process could clarify this. Its a bit of a moot point now with the new rules, but I'm curious.


Edited by SierraNevada (02/10/15 09:02 AM)

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#41754 - 02/10/15 06:15 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: SierraNevada]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1552
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Not included in the PCTA permit: it was definitely an option. Very clear from the wording on the site. SO it is a small loss to Inyo. Based on the high level of cooperation between PCTA and the agencies it coordinates with, I think there is a high likelihood that this was something worked out with Inyo. Inyo still honors wilderness permits from all other jurisdictions without limits, fees or quotas, and anyone summiting from Guitar can tell you the numbers are considerable.
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#41762 - 02/11/15 08:40 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: saltydog]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Thanks for confirming the $15 fee was optional. When you think about it, there should never have been any fee at all. Summiting from the west has always been free. Likewise exiting Trail Crest should also be free and no quota, just like any other hiker starting from outside Inyo. So the $15 fee was a mistake all along as I see it.

But whatever money Inyo was getting by mistake, its over. And now PCT hikers are the only people who can't exit over Trail Crest after starting from outside Inyo NF. Not many did that anyway, but no more.

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#41764 - 02/11/15 11:25 PM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: SierraNevada]
britonwhit(ney) Offline


Registered: 03/06/14
Posts: 63
Loc: UK
It was definitely optional when I got my permit a few years ago.

However, most people I knew paid it - it wasn't just an exit fee, it enabled you to re-enter at Whitney Portal. Realistically, most thru-hikers exiting at a point are going to re-enter at the same point, so it was necessary and not a mistake.

Since most thru-hikers apply for their permits several months before hitting Whitney, it was safest to tick the box, just in case you did need to resupply at that point.

The 1,400 permits include long section hikes - my guess would be that perhaps half of those are thru-hikes, of which maybe half ticked the Whitney box, so 350x$15=$5250.

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#41765 - 02/12/15 08:48 AM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: britonwhit(ney)]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Good summary. I agree, the only reason to pay the $15 fee would have been for access UP the Whitney Trail. People were paying the fee for other reasons by mistake, as reported by Steve.

The other issue not discussed is the people who got the PCT LDP as a work-a-round to the lottery and open pass to climb whenever. That was a dirty little secret I know some people were doing. I suspect that was the "incident" or "incidents" that drew attention to this matter. But again, I'm only speculating here.

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#41786 - 02/13/15 04:52 PM resupply at Le Conte Canyon [Re: Steve C]
BobWilliams Offline


Registered: 02/13/15
Posts: 2
Loc: Reno, NV
Planning on a resupply at Le Conte Canyon on Sept. 17, 2015. Anybody want to share the costs?

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#41787 - 02/13/15 06:20 PM Re: resupply at Le Conte Canyon [Re: BobWilliams]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1552
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: BobWilliams
Planning on a resupply at Le Conte Canyon on Sept. 17, 2015. Anybody want to share the costs?


Bob: Have you found the JMT facebook page?

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2240988980/

Something like 10,000 members, and a great resource for just the kind of info you are looking for. Lots of through hike planning going on now.



Edited by saltydog (02/13/15 06:21 PM)
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#41789 - 02/14/15 07:30 AM Re: resupply at Le Conte Canyon [Re: saltydog]
BobWilliams Offline


Registered: 02/13/15
Posts: 2
Loc: Reno, NV
Saltydog
Found the Facebook group.
Made a mistake on my resupply date. It is Sept. 18th, not the 17th.
Thanks

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#41790 - 02/14/15 08:47 AM Re: PCTA changes Mt Whitney access rules [Re: saltydog]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
SD, I never said it was a big deal, just at it was a stupid idea...as stupid as the Trail Crest exit permit. If someone wants to climb Mt. Whitney, head down the MMWT into town for bad pizza and to pick up some packages at the post office...no one should impede this.

All anyone has to do is check the permit distribution for May and June to know this is not a problem. However, there is now has a solution. These unfortunate people now have to travel down to the ESIVC and pick up readily available permits rather than just head back up to Whitney Portal.

I said the government was involved, which they are. As the PCTA has acknowledged. That's it.

This was not well thought out.

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