Mt Whitney Zone
Posted By: Steve C Weather station at the Whitney summit hut - 11/10/09 05:37 PM
I have been hopeful that the Whitney Hikers Association might be able to back a project to install a remote-reporting weather station at the summit hut. I went so far as to email a Seki ranger, who sounded positive, and gave me the name of someone to contact.

So I followed this lead, talking to several people within Sequoia National Park, and finally got to the Seki wilderness coordinator. We spoke on the phone for some time.

Here are the two big roadblocks:
The summit hut is protected as a registered property by the Natural History Preservation Act (of California, I believe), and a State History Preservation Officer would need to allow any modifications made to the building. I was told the building's original purpose was to "measure solar radiation", and that was done only for a single season.

The Mount Whitney summit is in a designated wilderness area, and introducing any kind of man made structures in the zone would practically require an act of Congress.

The person I spoke to also brought up the "slippery slope" point, that is, if you allow one group to bypass the rules, you will have dozens of other people coming with proposals.

I can think of a number of safety-related and scientific reasons that a weather station at the summit would be invaluable. And it would seem a weather station could be placed inside the building with only three externally visible items: anemometer, antenna and solar panel.

I haven't completely given up the idea, but don't hold your breath.
Note: I am also including below a post made by George (a Seki ranger) yesterday in another thread. He was responding to my complaint about the negative response I got from the fellow I spoke to on the phone.

Thank you George. It does help to understand the various angles of the situation.

Here is George's post:

Originally Posted By: Steve C
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.)


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:

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.

Posted By: CaT Re: Weather station at the Whitney summit hut - 11/10/09 06:23 PM

I believe the Act under which the summit hut is protected is more likely the National Historic Preservation Act, which would make it a federal matter. I could find no "Natural History Preservation Act" for California or elsewhere.

Here is a link of the Act, as amended through 2006, which seems to be the latest amendment (I even got to update Wiki's External Links section with this link, since their current link only had the Act as amended through 2000):


© WhitneyZone Message Board