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#12749 - 04/12/11 08:45 PM Counting Switchbacks
VersatileFred Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 130
Loc: SoCal
This thread started out as "One Day Hike - First Timer Questions", but has taken on a new life with the idea of counting all the switchbacks for the entire MMWT (Main Mt Whitney Trail). Wayne Pyle has an excellent count of the notorious 97 switchers between Trail Crest and Trail Camp, but now we're talking about counting all the others.

So the thread now has a new subject. The old thread is here:  One Day Hike - First Timer Questions

--Steve C.


Posted by Versatile Fred:

Originally Posted By: Kandy
wbtravis,
I was convinced that someone had moved the parking lot down the mountain towards Lone Pine while we were hiking. It wasn't any better the second time either . . . those last 3 miles are simply the most unending, brain-teasing, strength sapping ever! But as soon as you enter the Portal, it all just melts away!
On my first trip, I did a preliminary hike up to LP Lake and counted the 24 switchbacks in the John Muir Wilderness between the trees and the sign. Little did I know that I would be counting them on the way down in the dark on the actual hike. That is one way to keep your brain active.


Edited by Steve C (04/13/11 09:57 PM)

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#12752 - 04/12/11 09:09 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks
tdtz Offline


Registered: 08/26/10
Posts: 511
Loc: CA
I've come down the section between LPL and the portal 4 times now. The two times that I did it in the dark were absolutely miserable. I kept saying to myself "not one more flippin switchback?!" (note the silent whining in my voice as I am saying it)

The best one was when I did a dayhike to LPL with my (then 9yo) son in Nov 2008. We played pine cone soccer all the way down the trail. Warning, good pinecones start becoming scarce about halfway down. It really did help to pass the time.

Although, it may have just been that it was a simple dayhike to LPL and not a summit venture.

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#12759 - 04/13/11 02:33 AM Re: One Day Hike - First-Timer Questions [Re: tdtz]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Tom, I have a grand plan this summer to attempt to count every freakin' switchback on the MT. The 99 get all the press, but there are a ton more between the Portal and TC. It won't be a Wayne Pyle high-tech approach - just a clicker - and it probably won't be exact, but at least it'll satisfy my curiosity.

Naturally, this will be a project for the descent to help pass the time . . .

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#12774 - 04/13/11 08:01 AM Re: One Day Hike - First-Timer Questions [Re: tdtz]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
I know the misery. The first time down, I must have kicked every single rock protrusion in the trail.

But the section I truly hate on the way down is between Trailside Meadow and Mirror Lake. I usually lose the trail somewhere in that section, even after reminding myself to concentrate.

One of my many bits of advice is to have a good headlight, if you are going to hike at night. A better headlight will put a lot of contrast on the trail enabling you travel a bit faster and minimize the number of rocks you end up kicking...I hate kicking rocks.

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#12775 - 04/13/11 08:02 AM Re: One Day Hike - First-Timer Questions [Re: Bulldog34]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
Tom, I have a grand plan this summer to attempt to count every freakin' switchback on the MT. The 99 get all the press, but there are a ton more between the Portal and TC. It won't be a Wayne Pyle high-tech approach - just a clicker - and it probably won't be exact, but at least it'll satisfy my curiosity.

Naturally, this will be a project for the descent to help pass the time . . .


Damn, Dog, go in the winter. For some reason, a lot of those switchbacks disappear.

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#12776 - 04/13/11 08:17 AM Re: One Day Hike - First-Timer Questions [Re: Bulldog34]
GandC Offline


Registered: 03/21/11
Posts: 244
Loc: SoCal
I think we all ought to take Bulldogs clicker approach and compare counts here. I bet we get 20 different numbers out of 20 different people.
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One day I'd like to hike the entire John Muir Trail and not leave a single footprint. -Randy Morgenson

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#12785 - 04/13/11 09:46 AM Re: One Day Hike - First-Timer Questions [Re: GandC]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1499
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Would it be useful to try to establish just what constitutes a switchback?
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Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#12790 - 04/13/11 11:30 AM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: saltydog]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7131
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Would it be useful to try to establish just what constitutes a switchback?

Definitely. There is some debate here.

I think one requirement is that the up-slope and down-slope side of the trail must switch from one side to the other.

I am not sure whether the number of degrees in the turn (how tight) should also be included.

I've got it.... any turns in question should photographed and displayed.

And does a "switchback" mean the actual turning point, or is it the straight section of trail between the two turns???


Edited by Steve C (04/13/11 09:52 PM)

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#12792 - 04/13/11 11:54 AM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: Steve C]
AlanK Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 583
Loc: Glendale, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Would it be useful to try to establish just what constitutes a switchback?

Definitely. There is some debate here.

I think one requirement is that the up-slope and down-slope side of the trail must switch from one side to the other.

I am not sure whether the number of degrees in the turn (how tight) should also be included.

I've got it.... any turns in question should photographed and displayed.

And does a "switchback" mean the actual turning point, or is it the straight section of trail between the two turns???


Defining "switchback" (The following quote was edited by me.)

Quote:
A hairpin turn, named for its resemblance to a hairpin or bobby pin, is a bend in a road with a very acute inner angle, making it necessary to turn almost 180° to continue on the road. Such turns may be called switchbacks in American English, by analogy with switchback railways.

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#12796 - 04/13/11 03:48 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: GandC]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 578
Loc: Manchester, NH
Originally Posted By: GandC
I think we all ought to take Bulldogs clicker approach and compare counts here. I bet we get 20 different numbers out of 20 different people.
You could also examine a GPS track and count them. If you don't have one of your own, then you can find them on Wikiloc.

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#12807 - 04/13/11 05:01 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: GandC]
Wayne Offline
deceased

Registered: 11/01/09
Posts: 45
Loc: Charlotte, NC
GandC, {oops, I guess GandC posted in a different thread} I think you are quite right. Years ago I was really bothered by all the counts I heard, ranging from 95 to 105. So, I took it upon myself to count the switchbacks. I stood at each swithback and recorded its latitude, longitude and elevation, plus I had my GPS unit's track. With all the data I confirmed there are 97 switchbacks. If there were ever 99, it had to be more than 40 years ago--before I first hiked the switchbacks above Trail Camp

The definition of a switchback is important. I used the rule that a switchback must make an acute angle, less than 90 degrees, and "switch back" in a near opposite direction. I asked BobR, who has hiked the switchbacks probably more than anyone I have heard of or know about, to check the angles, which he was kind enough to do. Switchback #10 (counting from Trail Camp) was the most questionable, because this switchback makes two turns to satisfy an acute angle less than 90 degrees, but the two turns make a single switchback.

You can look at my chart below to see what I mean.



I wish Bulldog the best in doing his clicking. The switchbacks between switchback 53 and switchback 75 come awful quick, every 10 to 50 feet, so Bulldog really has to be focused to remember to click each one.

By the way, I've discovered a common mistake made by switchback-counters is to count the starting point, such as Trail Crest when going down. The first switchback occurs after Trail Crest--not at Trail Crest.

Anyway, I hope Bulldog and all switchback counters have fun counting. It is quite a challenge.

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#12808 - 04/13/11 05:22 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: Wayne]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Whut? Clicking, counting, re-counting...switchbacks? I thought that Wayne had already put that dog to bed.

(I admit that I have not followed the thread, so, like, maybe a mysterious switchback has appeared....or disappeared)

I guess that my goals while hiking are not nearly so, umm, lofty.

On the way up, I am missing fresh fruit, on the way down, while everyone is pining for plops of meat patties, I am anticipating the first bites of lovely fresh fruit.

(PS thank you Steve, again, for making that grocery run in Lone Pine and gathering up a yummy supply of fruit and yogurt last October! smile )
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The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#12809 - 04/13/11 05:23 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: Wayne]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Wayne (aka, Carolina Snake Handling Dude) and Bee, I wouldn't dream of trying to re-count the switchers between TC and TC - you've pretty much settled that argument once and for all with your fine work on the map (which has been with me each of the last two years on Whitney, by the way). It's all the other SBs I've wondered about - the total count over the 11 miles between the Portal and the summit.

The idea is to to be click-happy between the Portal to Trail Camp, and between Trail Crest and the summit - then add your 97 to come up with a (subjective) grand total. 250? 300? 400? I've wondered for a while - that trail has more SBs than any I've ever hiked over a similar distance.


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#12810 - 04/13/11 05:27 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: Bulldog34]
quillansculpture Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 552
Loc: Murrieta, CA
Gary.....please, no clicking. I mean, there is scenery and if you don't watch out, the Grouse might attack.
_________________________
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twitter: @josephquillan

If less is more, imagine how much more, more is -Frasier

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#12819 - 04/14/11 01:15 AM Re: One Day Hike - First-Timer Questions [Re: Steve C]
Wayne Offline
deceased

Registered: 11/01/09
Posts: 45
Loc: Charlotte, NC
Bulldog,

The rest of the switchbacks have been counted over the years. The following chart can help Bulldog do his own counting. For example, at point 6 in the following chart begins a set of 25 switchbacks. At point 16 are 16 switchbacks, and point 19 begins a set of 14. There are other switchbacks, and maybe Bulldog can give us all a full count.

Here is my chart, which would be helpful to hikers using GPSs:



By the way, one Whitney hiker about a year ago thanked me for the chart, as he said he got caught in a white-out and used the GPS coordinates to hike out. He thanked me for saving his life!

Well, maybe the chart can help Bulldog get his count and have a more challenging if not more enjoyable trek up and down Whitney this summer.

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#12826 - 04/14/11 06:20 AM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: quillansculpture]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1499
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
I agree with SteveC that the change of uphill side is the key feature of a switchback.This can certainly happen with less than a 90 degree angle, but I think the change in sides IS the switch in switchback. SO I would say that it is the TURN, first of all, not the stretch between turns, and specifically the point at which the uphill side of the trail switches.
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#12837 - 04/14/11 08:41 AM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: saltydog]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 955
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
What's the big deal?
I never understood the bean-counting attraction
Switchbacks are a good thing smile

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#12842 - 04/14/11 09:34 AM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7131
Loc: Fresno, CA
> What's the big deal? ...Switchbacks are a good thing smile

I can understand it. Extremely tired after 20 miles of hiking already, and two more miles to go.... the trail seems endless. Counting the switchbacks might help.

Salty expressed it in the old thread here:

Originally Posted By: saltydog
The last 3 miles is an interesting phenomenon. I don't think it is unique to MWMT. I have experienced the same on many, perhaps every, a yo-yo day hike I can remember. Most recently on the AR. How can this stretch be so beautiful on the way up and the cause of so much suffering on the way down? No way are you more pumped for the hike any time as you are in those first 3 miles, or as tired and ready for the B&B* as on the last.

It could be an E ride and still be agonizing.

My strategy at this point is to descend at the same rate I came up, rest, and take in everything I might have missed the first time around. Its not often you get such a second chance late in the game.


I've been on a hike or two where the last stretch seemed to go on forever!

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#12861 - 04/14/11 02:33 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Harvey, it's just a condition of curiosity + boredom (descending) = wild-hair-idea. Some people like chocolate, some vanilla. By nature, I'm a statistically-oriented, bean-counting kinda guy. I just can't quite figure out how I'd operate a counter with trekking poles in both hands . . .

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#12871 - 04/14/11 03:30 PM Re: Counting Switchbacks [Re: Bulldog34]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 955
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
hmmm... Bulldog...must be a Georgia thing,
or is that Georgia Tech? haha

just giddy here,
4 months to go before I'll be back on Whitney for #5

Harvey

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