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Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

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Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Chicago Transplant » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:21 pm

I have a feeling I am starting a thread that is going to turn into another "flame war" but I feel I should say something anyway... For one, I do volunteer ranger work in the Holy Cross and Eagles Nest Wilderness areas and feel as one of my duties, I should pass the word along.

I have noticed that several gatherings, recently and in years past, have been occurring in Wilderness Areas that have group size limitations as part of the regulations. The group size limits in a Wilderness Area are generally 15 humans. These limits are in place to help preserve the wilderness character of these areas and provide opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. I know 14ers aren't exactly places for "solitude", but I think group leaders should still be cognizant of this aspect of Wilderness when planning group outings.

The way I see it, the gatherings are generally two-parts - one part social, and one part giving "newbie" climbers an opportunity to meet and hike with more experienced climbers and hopefully learn some skills that will help them on their mountain climbing quests. Speaking mainly to the second part, having a group outing in a Wilderness Area where the group size exceeds the 15 person limit seems to me to get people off on the wrong foot. When it comes to being stewards for these peaks and of the Leave No Trace ethics, I feel the more experienced people should be passing this on to the "next generation" of peak climbers. Also, given the large social aspect, perhaps Wilderness Areas that are supposed to be quieter and more free of human impact, are not the best places to have a large social gathering.

I don't mean to "call anyone out" and I have been guilty of attending an overpopulated gathering in a Wilderness Area myself, so I hope I am not coming off as "preachy". Speaking for myself, however - I will never plan or attend an "open invitation" gathering in a Wilderness Area, and would "cap" any invitation only type of gatherings at the proper size limits. Even the 9 people we had out this weekend on Fortress, or our group of 9 on RGP a couple of weeks ago felt large for the areas they were in. The 15 person limit is not only reasonable, but generous, in my opinion. I hope other members on this site will plan their large group hikes accordingly. There are plenty of peaks that are not in Wilderness Areas, and while it might not be on as aesthetic mountains all the time, there are still some gems. Let's be the stewards for these peaks and special areas that we claim to be and respect the group size limits by "pledging" to keep our group sizes in check on the future gatherings, or pick areas that are not designated as Wilderness. Thanks!
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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Upstate Hiker » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:39 pm

How about none of us respond to this and don't give haters the attention they desire? Deal?

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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby mrmuffins00 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:43 pm

Upstate Hiker wrote:How about none of us respond to this and don't give haters the attention they desire? Deal?

But no FLAMEZ? :cry:

I would agree!

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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Jim Davies » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:45 pm

Which "haters", the ones that want to follow rules, or the ones that don't? I'm confused.

I've seen (and been part of) a few outings that violated the 15-person limit. I suspect it's not honored very often, much like the dogs-on-leashes rule or the camp-100-feet-from-water rule. But when we did have overly-large groups in the past, we've generally tried to break up into multiple groups.
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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Jon Frohlich » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:47 pm

Upstate Hiker wrote:How about none of us respond to this and don't give haters the attention they desire? Deal?


It's part of the regulations and should be considered by anyone organizing a gathering. He's making a valid point. It might not be a point everyone agrees with but it doesn't make him a hater. As gatherings get larger they do have more of an impact upon the environment and the other wilderness users. It's difficult to say where the limit should be since some groups are good at minimizing impact and others are not. I know the CMC takes this into account when organizing hikes. I'm not sure whether hikes run through Meetup groups do or not. I suppose that might depend on the group.

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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Upstate Hiker » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:51 pm

By haters, I mean trolls who just post things to be inflammatory. Aside from the summit, we were all in small groups, that did not exceed 8 people. And, on any given Sunday, you can find 100s of people on the summit. Have fun trying to give our hike to support Dave and Bill's finisher a black eye.

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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Brian Thomas » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:59 pm

Upstate Hiker wrote:By haters, I mean trolls who just post things to be inflammatory

Considering the value added to this site by Chicago Transplant, would hardly consider him to be a "troll".

The 2012 Gurlz hike had less than 15 members. Bill's finisher group had less than 15 members. They just coincidentally happened to be on the same summit on Saturday. Issue resolved.
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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby SurfNTurf » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:59 pm

First of all, I didn't perceive anything remotely "preachy" in your tone. You had a concern and you voiced it with a level head. I hope this doesn't devolve into a flame war because it's an interesting topic that merits discussion.

...but I'm not holding my breath.

Chicago Transplant wrote: ...I know 14ers aren't exactly places for "solitude"...


That sums it up for me. I hiked Holy Cross in late July, and again this weekend as part of the Gurlz Hike and Bill's finisher. I wasn't keeping count or anything, but I'd bet a good amount of money that there were at least 5x as many people on the mountain in July. The parking lot was backed up 1/4-mile from the TH. It was reminiscent of Grays/Torreys, and that's not an exaggeration. The impact on the mountain this weekend was much, much less.

Why should this "gathering" or any other be chastised, when it's not really any different than a typical summer weekend? Everyone stayed on the trail. Everyone packed out their trash, and I saw more than a few people picking up litter from previous hikers.

It's also worth noting that our giant group was really only together on the summit. Other than that we were hiking in strung-out clusters. Again, how is that different from any other day just because most of us happened to know each other? It's not like there's 40 people all bunched into a conga-line.

I agree with you in that I wouldn't take a large group into some of the truly remote areas, such as the Weminuche. I'd be peeved to run into a crowd there myself (Chicago Basin being the glaring exception). But let's face it, the 14ers have reached an event horizon and expecting solitude on them is probably a lost cause.
Last edited by SurfNTurf on Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Doctor No » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:01 pm

This might be the first time that Chicago Transplant's been referred to as a troll.

It's an interesting topic. (Also, I'm not sure that David and Bill's finisher would qualify, since there were many small groups in different packs).

I don't see the need to immediately assume that he's "hating" or "trolling".

Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Bean » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:03 pm

Image

Doctor No wrote: (Also, I'm not sure that David and Bill's finisher would qualify, since there were many small groups in different packs).

IMO the group-size thing is really only relevant on overnighters - a large hiking group will break apart rapidly, especially on a mountain, especially at altitude.

Also funny to see CT referred to as a troll.
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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby Jon Frohlich » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:06 pm

Brian Thomas wrote:
Upstate Hiker wrote:By haters, I mean trolls who just post things to be inflammatory

Considering the value added to this site by Chicago Transplant, would hardly consider him to be a "troll".

The 2012 Gurlz hike had less than 15 members. Bill's finisher group had less than 15 members. They just coincidentally happened to be on the same summit on Saturday. Issue resolved.


Agreed, Chicago Transplant is about the farthest a person can be from a troll around here.

Group size regulations are a bit silly when considering 14ers. We're past the point on popular peaks of being able to make size limits work since there are so many people on a mountain at a time. On the other hand having 100 people in a remote place like the West Elks would be a completely different situation.

I'm sure the regulations were originally based on something but aside from providing a reason to prevent something like a Rainbow Gathering in a wilderness area I'm not sure they are doing much.

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Re: Gatherings and Wilderness Areas

Postby MountainHiker » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:08 pm

Okay, I’ll bite. We could consider where the wilderness area starts. The gathering itself might not be in the wilderness area. The hike could be a different matter. However I’ve found the trend in recent gatherings has been for people to spread out on several different hikes, such as with the latest fall gathering. The camping was on private property with permission. We had an outhouse as the planning addressed the growing popularity.

I assume CT is talking about the Gurlz Hike. I don’t know where they gathered before or after. But having been on “group” hikes I’d be surprised if there ever 15 together at any time along the trail. The summit pictures looked to me like any summer fourteener summit, except for the prevalence of pink.

So to take this point seriously, it is something we could consider when we plan the gathering camping location. But really, any class 2 fourteener in the summer will have droves of hikers, gathering or not. Bierstadt is in a wilderness area. A group of 16 would be indistinguishable from the throngs.

I know Chicago Transplant is not a troll. He brings up a point worth noting with future plans.
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