Edit: For people reading this, THIS THREAD is from 2009. Look in the Feature Topics box on the left for the link to current lottery information.
Today I spoke with our contact in Inyo National Forest to collect the last unused permit numbers of the season.
I asked whether there would be any changes with permits or rules for the Whitney area. There are none.
However, there are several other changes on the horizon. The first is a new Internet server to handle their web pages. Apparently they are running on pretty old equipment, and new servers should make their lives much easier when it comes to updating the web pages. The switch may come right around Lottery time, so brace yourselves. We may need to help get some vital info out.
And the even bigger change, though, is talk of changing the lottery so it is handled by the National Reservation System -- the same people that handle reservations for camp sites.
There is no way this will occur for the next lottery, but may in the future.
Knowing a little about random selections using computer programs, I thought this would be a monumental task. But it turns out, there is already a computer-run reservation/lottery handling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) access.
There are lots of differences and many wrinkles to work out, like how to limit the number of choices people can request, and I am sure many more.
But I'll bet the computer can run an entire system in less than an hour! Everyone would get their letter or email the same day. ...what a concept!
If someone wants to check out the BWCAW system and comment here, it would be appreciated. In fact comments might even be seen by Inyo National Forest people.
Interesting numbers on how many unused permits there were especially the overnights through the "heavy" use summer.I also noticed that Oct.2 was one of the few days the entire permit season with 0 un-used overnight permits available. The system definately needs to be modernized and computerized. The man hours to process by hand is daunting.Having same day abilty to process permits would be amazing.Now what to do about the no-shows( Good for us locals).There are so many problems with getting a permit in February for a Mt. Whitney excursion later in the summer with the weather being so unpredictable.It is such a crap shoot.How could one traveling from the East Coast or out of Country ever be able to plan effectively for a Whitney trip when the weather could change in a moments notice and cancel an attempt. I guess there no way to change that issue. Thanks for all the info and links Steve. This is sooo valuable.What a tool for Whitney planning.
> but a convenience charge or something similar would probably be attached to such a system.
You're right, I forgot to include that point. It was mentioned that the NRS would have a service fee on top of the reservation fees.
That fee is pretty objectionable to me for campsites -- make a reservation for a campsite, and if you can't make it, there's NO refund. If there were a refund possible, people would free up their unused slots for others to use.
Of course this is quite a different situation from the Whitney lottery -- probably pay an NRS fee just to enter the lottery, then pay the Forest Service fee for the reservation if you were one of the lucky ones.
I remember throwing out the idea of Recreation.Gov in another post on a WPSMB topic a year or so ago. (My post did not get much support in the discussion). It is good that Inyo NF is at least considering it.
This is the first year when it was not a guarantee to drive up the day before and get a permit for a weekend hike. Probably the issue of NF and MT combined has caused an increase demand. I don't see that getting any better with the current rules and numbers.
If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)
As I read this, it looks like the USFS may change the lottery portion of obtaining reservations at some point in the future, but that the current system of showing up the day before at the VC, at 11AM and 2PM for cancelled/no show slots will remain?
Is this what is being proposed? Or will getting a walk-in permit the day before also change? If it changes, does it mean that one would have to purchase a slot due to cancel/no shows?
> USFS may change the lottery portion of obtaining reservations at some point in the future, but that the current system of showing up the day before at the VC, at 11AM and 2PM for cancelled/no show slot will remain?
Yes, that is the way I understood our conversation.
> Or will getting a walk-in permit the day before also change?
They are not talking about changing that process.
> does it mean that one would have to purchase a slot due to cancel/no shows?
That was not part of the discussion. However, even as things exist now, you can purchase a permit reservation after the lottery, but up to two days before your hike, by calling the Wilderness Permit office, IF a slot is available.
As for no-shows, there is no way they could sell those, since they are unknown entities until that 11 AM / 2 PM time, and with those, you have to be at the Visitor Center in person.
Of all the times I've been on Whitney, I've used the lottery/advance system but once, even when I lived on the East Coast. On that one occasion I got reservations for my party on my first date choice, so my limited experience was positive. All the other times I've gotten walk-ins the day before - the closest I've ever come to not getting a permit was a couple of years ago when I got the next-to-last dayhike permit.
Anyway, so long as there's a mechanism for getting a permit the day before at no cost then I really don't care how the USFS administers the Whitney system.
What I don't like is the current system for St Helens. They now have a private contractor since it was reopened after a period of increased volcanic activity, and ALL permits are issued in advance via the contractor. While the permit is validated at a nearby store (Jack's) they used to have a daily lottery system for no-shows. Not any longer, and that's not a good system. I hope Whitney never adopts that method.
My hunch is there are a fair number of stealth hikers on St Helens as a result of that method.
Reminds me... A year or two back, I talked to Inyo N.F. about a refund mechanism, where people could get a partial refund if they relinquished their reservations at some date (perhaps 2 weeks) before their hike.
Unfortunately, it is a very big deal to set up a process to hand out money.
But I still think it would be a good way to encourage people to make their slots available early enough for others to reserve them.
Edit: For people reading this, THIS THREAD is from 2009. Look in the Feature Topics box above on the left for the link to current lottery information.