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Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Steve C #690 11/09/09 10:39 AM
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Seki people don't seem very enthusiastic about public suggestions. (You should have heard the response I got with my idea of placing a remote-reporting weather station at the summit hut. ...but I'll save that for another thread.)


Steve:

It wasn't a bad suggestion. Don't know what response you got from the sub-district ranger, but your statement isn't quite fair, though it may seem like NPS isn't open to suggestions.

One of the semi-discouraging things I notice on many of the boards and in many of the discussions is a basic misunderstanding of the role and responsibility of a National Park -- and one further protected as a designated Wilderness. Everyone has their own reason for visiting and enjoying a park -- climbing, fishing, hiking, horse riding & mule packing & etc. And every one of those groups has a list of accommodations that they want to support their activity. In my experience, they are not hugely concerned with how that accommodation fits into the core philosophy and actual legal requirements of parks and Wilderness.

Packers want hitching rails, big fire rings, & fences to keep their stock from wandering. Climbers want an exemption from the permit quotas because they're extra special and don't go where the masses go. They want to be able to leave bolts in the rock; wipe all the moss, dirt & lichen off so they can get a better hold. Hikers want more signs and someone who will quickly get them when they hit the "mommy button" on their SPOT. They want bear boxes as a place to abandon their unwanted food and gear.

This even extends to the NPS. We put in transects for research. We've got buildings and outhouses and Knaack boxes for trail crews and rangers; the state puts in snow survey markers and automated weather stations.

If you read the continuing controversy on netting fish out of lakes to restore habitat for the endangered yellow-legged frog, you'll see that there's a core group of fisherpeople who have absolutely no interest in protecting and preserving a species vital to the Sierra ecosystem: they just want fish and are uncompromising in not making the slightest acknowledgment of the importance (both legal and ecological) of native species. To them, National Parks are all about fishing and nothing else is important.

Here's the thing. National Parks have the unfortunate duality of attempting to:

Quote:
conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.


Everyone -- NPS included -- has some vital thing they want to make their visit in the backcountry easier or more enjoyable. It is almost always at the expense of what both the legal and philosophical requirements of a National Park and protected Wilderness are.

So, as a small 'for instance' your idea of a weather station is a good one -- and even probably useful -- but it's really one more piece of junk that someone wants to put into a Wilderness area. Also, not incidentally, the Whitney Hut is a National Historic Building and carries a whole other set of protections. It's a cool suggestion, as is the warning sign for going down the west side. But from a Wilderness/Park standpoint, we've really got to ask if it interferes with the guiding laws and philosophy of Wilderness and if maybe even that information somehow detracts from the self-reliance that Wilderness should promote.

Which is all to say that it's not simply a matter of not being open to suggestions, but to see them in the light of their cumulative impact and whether they can be justified to further Wilderness values.

George


None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.
Re: Lost Whitney hiker
George #691 11/09/09 11:03 AM
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Thank you for posting George. I certainly didn't intend this thread to morph into into a National Parks policy debate. I'll try to start a thread about the weather station experience when I find a few minutes. I was just thinking about the ranger's letting me know that he personally couldn't support even a non-obtrusive setup at the summit hut. (Give me a couple of days, I'll start the thread, and maybe copy your text over there.)

As for the sign, it's only a sign. Seems to me its presence would save SAR episodes every so often, and could even save a life, since hikers missing that particular junction has been noted several places.

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Steve C #696 11/09/09 01:28 PM
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There could be another sign, at one of the red marks on the extreme right of Wayne's "Windows" picture. Look at pictures 70 - 73 in this album.

At that point, the trail goes up, after passing a window. The descending hiker does not expect to encounter an upward incline, so it is natural to keep going down. So many people have done this, there is a nice use trail now (see picture 72). Last year, this happened on two separate trips, to a member of my own party. The album above documents the first time. A few months later, I was watching for it so it only cost us a minute or so. And before last year, perhaps a half dozen other times--and that's just when I've been there to see it.

Also, it hasn't happened for a long time, but I have more than once corrected people descending toward Guitar Lake, below the section of trail west of the Whitney-Keeler notch.

And what about the chute from Trail Crest, when there is snow? I know there have been quite a few fatalities there, while I can't think of anyone who has died by going down the JMT in error. Seems to me, if I were going to erect only one sign, I would put it here.

But I am personally against such signs. Where do you stop? You don't want people to think "I don't need to pay attention or know about what can go wrong. The signs will keep me on track."

(By the way, the terrain looks steep in Wayne's picture because you are looking down at an angle of about 32 degrees. You can verify that by doing some geometry on a couple of features in the picture.)

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Steve C #752 11/12/09 08:53 AM
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you know, we could start a fund to have one (or more) made & maybe via our "inside" ranger link - have it ok'd & have authorization to put it up.

sometimes a good idea is too good to sit on.
no pun intended =)

Last edited by SanDi_carole; 11/12/09 08:54 AM. Reason: figured out how to count
Re: Lost Whitney hiker
SanDi_carole #754 11/12/09 09:18 AM
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Maybe George could comment on the possibility.

George, do you think the idea of just one additional sign might be worth pursuing?

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Steve C #759 11/12/09 03:19 PM
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Hmmmm. I'm not sure what the current sign says, though photos of it were taken on the last search. I wouldn't be a fan of a large and separate warning sign. At most, another sign attached to the current post and maybe more clearly saying "Whitney Portal, Trail Camp" or something; for the west maybe Crabtree Ranger Station or JMT North.

It's not a matter of money -- even NPS can afford a new sign. It's a matter of convincing people there's a problem and that a sign is the solution or that improving existing signs would help. Anyone have a photo of the current sign at the JMT/Whitney summit/Whitney Portal junction? Seems like it already says something like Whitney Portal, doesn't it?

As for a warning sign on the east side when there's snow. That's definitely a dangerous point at the top of that chute. A number of accidents & fatalities. That's USFS and would be their decision.

All that said, I definitely lean more towards the situational awareness, hiker responsibility side of the scale. For every accident, there's the feeling that "if we only had a sign" it would solve the problem. Maybe a sign at each trailhead: "Don't do stupid things" might cover it... .

Last, I'm happy to join in discussions and offer keen observations bolstered by several glasses of wine, but I also want to point out that I'm a poor-but-honest seasonal backcountry ranger and have no management responsibilities whatsoever, though I can at least steer people to who to talk to etc.

g.


None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.
Re: Lost Whitney hiker
George #761 11/12/09 04:46 PM
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Actually, George, we're talking about a new sign at a new location on the west side. It would/should be placed somewhere west of (below) the JMT/Whitney Portal junction, since SO many people have experiences with other hikers, or even themselves MISSING that junction.

Here are the posts mentioning people missing the junction and making a wrong turn:
  • Paul's post (second post in this thread on page 1)
  • My post (third post in this thread on page 1) links to the "A search and rescue story".
  • KevinR's post (third from last post in this thread on page 1)
  • Bob R's post (above in this thread) mentions the use trail as well as intercepting day hikers descending toward Guitar Lake.


My sign suggestion can be seen as the next-to-last post in this thread on page 1.

We're suggesting the sign should be 50 yards or so west of the current junction, or, if it would catch the use-trail people Bob R wrote about, someplace farther west where those hikers might hit the JMT.

Regardless of situational awareness, reality shows that hikers DO take the wrong trail here, probably more than any other place in the entire Sierra.

Do you think we should pursue this with Seki management?

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
George #768 11/12/09 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted By: George
Maybe a sign at each trailhead: "Don't do stupid things" might cover it... .


Oh, sweet cheez, if ONLY it were that simple! laugh laugh ROTFLOL!

Originally Posted By: George
Last, I'm happy to join in discussions and offer keen observations bolstered by several glasses of wine, ...
g.


Actually, that's really the only way to fly. Or scotch, as Bob and I prefer...

George, here's the current signage:


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Re: Lost Whitney hiker
MooseTracks #769 11/12/09 07:38 PM
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Please not another sign!! If they cant understand the sign posted by moosetracks, then nothing would help. The wilderness has to many signs already, you can't regulate people not paying attention. JM2CS, Magg

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
DUG #781 11/13/09 11:07 AM
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Don't forget the large signs at the trailhead. They contain a huge amount of safety information for those willing to read them. You could have a sign every 50 feet and there will still be fatalities on the Whitney Trail. Somebody will hike totally unprepared. Somebody will push ahead when their body is saying turn back. Somebody will get summit fever and continue hiking in spite of the time and the weather conditions. Somebody will underestimate the risks of winter mountaineering.

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
RichardK #785 11/13/09 03:50 PM
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I'm for LESS signs and less STUFF in the backcountry. At some point you have to take responsibility for yourself. I suck at reading a map and using a GPS and compass so I have to make darn sure I know where I'm going. I would rather not see any signs, but that's just me.

That junction leading down to Crabtree can be difficult if you're tired or you haven't prepared, so here's a thought - do your homeowrk. It seems harsh, but that's your best bet at staying alive and not getting lost. Research, research, research.

I'm so anal about it, I made a special trip to the portal to ask Laura and Sean about Kersarge Pass before my OV - KC flip. After I had done tons of other research. I did it in the dark, twice, once while pretty tired and I didn't have any problems. Because I stressed and worried about enough to figure it out.

Do put me in charge - I'll take the hut down and return it to how it used to be. smile.................................DUG

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
DUG #967 11/22/09 01:58 PM
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Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Ken #969 11/22/09 06:02 PM
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Thanks, Ken, for posting the link. Here's the text and picture from the Seattle Times obituary:

Wade BRUNETTE On October 31, 2009, Search and Rescue teams confirmed the death of Wade Brunette due to a mountain climbing accident. Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin on October 15, 1936, Wade attended St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1962. Because of his great love for the outdoors, he moved to Seattle where he could pursue his interests in sailing, hiking, and skiing. He practiced radiology at St. Cabrini Hospital, and later at Minor and James Medical Clinic in Seattle, and retired in 1998. After retirement, he moved to Kitsap County, where he was an active member of the Kitsap Climbers. Wade is remembered for his sense of adventure, enthusiasm for outdoor activities, and appreciation for nature. His kindness, sense of humor, gentle manner, and twinkle in his eye will be missed by all. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne Zilles Brunette, four children, Julie, Kathryn, Michelle, and Steven, and nine grandchildren. A memorial will be held for Wade on November 22 in Hansville, Washington. Donations in memory of Wade may be made to Inyo County Search and Rescue; P.O. Box 982; Bishop, CA 93515.

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
MooseTracks #977 11/22/09 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted By: MooseTracks

George, here's the current signage:


I looked at the sign today. It is oriented for the hikers ascending from Guitar Lake, and is obviously intended for them. Those hikers see it straight on. But descenders from the summit only see a glancing blow.

If that's not confusing enough, if you sight along the arrow after the "Whitney Portal 8.7," you'll be looking in the direction of Hitchcock Lakes.

Seems like if the post were rotated 45 deg CCW, and an identical one placed on the opposite side, that might solve a lot of the problem.

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Bob R #983 11/23/09 12:30 PM
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You're right, Bob. Having too many signs cause folks to depend on them, and then get worried when they don't have them. What ever became of ye olde mappe and compass? After all, the Sierra's are not a nature park, complete with little explanatory signs at every interesting spot and view-point.

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Bob West #984 11/23/09 04:58 PM
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Hi Bob W, this is one place where many hikers have taken the wrong route. This is the one place in the Sierra bound to have the most novice hikers who are unprepared with the proper planning, knowledge or essential tools.

If you read through this thread and those referenced, you can find multiple instances where hikers have taken the wrong turn at this particular junction.

It is ONLY at this one particular trail that it seems like an additional sign might possibly prevent a lost hiker situation.

We aren't talking about putting signs all over the place, and we aren't talking about helping the knowledgeable hiker. It is the hapless novices who are NOT paying attention that might be helped at this one particular point.

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Steve C #999 11/24/09 03:59 PM
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Your point is well taken, and I have read all the posts in this thread. Perhaps one more obvious sign for descending hikers would help, but that is not a guarantee. Exhaustion and/or excessive speed during any descent of a peak can cause confusion and mistakes regardless of the experience level and fitness of the individual.

Mt. Whitney will continue to be a magnet for novice and expert hikers, but how far ought the Park and Forest Services be expected to go in order to ensure the safety of every hiker?

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
DUG #1000 11/24/09 05:35 PM
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To my view, this is a pretty straightforward fix. If the existing signage isn't working effectively, re-work it. The signage orientation and presentation should give hikers from all 3 directions a clear indication of where the two forks lead. That's just simply a no-brainer, right? If they're not oriented in an eye-catching manner - especially for novice hikers coming up from the Portal or down from the summit - it sounds like a pretty easy fix: re-work the existing signage with special attention to keeping first-timers aware of which direction is which.

Granted, that won't necessarily stop some disoriented or distracted hikers from going down instead of up, or right instead of left - stuff happens - but at least it might help prevent a case or two of wrong way-itis that results in a SAR call. A single hour of a SAR has to more expensive and time-consuming than replacing a less-than-effective signpost. It's already there - no need to add another and another - just re-configure it to produce a better result. Directional signage should be clear and work, whether it's on a 14-lane freeway or in the wilderness. Otherwise, what's the point?

Personally, since everyone has to pick up their permit at the Inter-Agency Center prior to hitting the trail, I think that's where the other "best" solution may lie - education. Something, anything, that cries, "Do this and you'll die!". Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you get the idea. A WZ hiker has to initial that a Ranger has discussed regulations, wag bags, food storage, etc with them, but no key safety points based on recurring problems. This sounds like a recurring problem over the years, so I'm just a bit amazed it's still status quo. I would imagine a half-baked, ambulance-chasing, personal injury attorney would have a field day in court with this set of circumstances if it ever came to it.

I agree wholeheartedly that novice, unprepared hikers shouldn't necessarily have their hand held when venturing into the wilderness. It's not a game and Mommy's not with you (well, there's SPOT, but that's a completely different topic). Unfortunately, many of these folks seem to be drawn to and congregate at Whitney, and that's just a fact. It's a magnet for everyone because of what it is and what it represents. Given the unique nature of the mountain, and the broader spectrum of it's hiking audience, I think a little extra diligence on Sequoia or INF's part is necessary to help prevent what appears to be an often-repeated mistake that can turn deadly.

Re: Lost Whitney hiker
Bulldog34 #1002 11/24/09 06:12 PM
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Bulldog, you are exactly right on the cost effectiveness of a sign VS SARS.

I have gone over this again and again and really can't figure out how someone goes "down" the trail. I know the trail is going down after Trail Crest, but picking the down trail over the up trail seems a bit odd. At this part of the trail, in clear weather you can see the hut can't you??? And that is up. I am sure if it's snowing, icy or bad weather, you could go down, but wouldn't you notice after 10 to 15 minutes that you've really been going down for a long, long time?
I know Doug's book tells you to practice, "you have to go up to go down" on the return to the Portal. Seems pretty common sense. I have certainly been confused hiking a trail, but Whitney is one of the more self explanitory trails around. It really is a case of never going alone, at least in bad weather.

Back to the sign.....spend $200.00 and get one for the trail and save tens of thousands of dollars on rescues. Another idea could be to replace the granite rocks on the trail with "yellow bricks". Oh well, I gotta go....come on Toto.


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Re: Lost Whitney hiker
quillansculpture #1004 11/24/09 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted By: quillansculpture
Bulldog, you are exactly right on the cost effectiveness of a sign VS SARS.

I have gone over this again and again and really can't figure out how someone goes "down" the trail. I know the trail is going down after Trail Crest, but picking the down trail over the up trail seems a bit odd. At this part of the trail, in clear weather you can see the hut can't you??? And that is up. I am sure if it's snowing, icy or bad weather, you could go down, but wouldn't you notice after 10 to 15 minutes that you've really been going down for a long, long time?
I know Doug's book tells you to practice, "you have to go up to go down" on the return to the Portal. Seems pretty common sense. I have certainly been confused hiking a trail, but Whitney is one of the more self explanitory trails around. It really is a case of never going alone, at least in bad weather.

Back to the sign.....spend $200.00 and get one for the trail and save tens of thousands of dollars on rescues. Another idea could be to replace the granite rocks on the trail with "yellow bricks". Oh well, I gotta go....come on Toto.


quillansculpture -

My hunch is that fewer that 1 in 1000 hikers have ever read Doug's book. And (aside from my anecdotal account), most people who make the wrong way turn are returning FROM the summit, not heading TO it. When returning, there's a long section - maybe as much as 1/2 mile - where the hiker switchbacks downhill. So, when they encounter the intersection it's not a stretch to see why a few continue downhill. As Bob notes - the sign in Laura pics is not as obvious to the downhill hiker as the uphill. So, when hikers are tired/the hour is late/visibility obscured - every now and then someone ends up headed for Guitar Lake.

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