Trail and Peak Crowding

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Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby Wildhorse » Sun Sep 13, 2015 5:35 pm

Wall Street Journal published this interesting story about Korea's effort to get people to slow down and to be less competitive on their very crowded mountain trails. They love racing to peaks. Their park service hopes to slow people down and decrease crowding at the same time. ... 1441988585

I think we see similar competitive tendencies here, although the average hiker pace seems slower here than the wsj implies that hikers achieve in Korea.

We are certainly facing crowding in mountains near cities, just as in Korea. The wsj video shows images of crowding that look familiar. As we all too sadly know, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and many other parks have congested trails - so many tourists.

Cowles Mountain and Iron Mountain in San Diego and numerous trails in the San Gabriel's are very crowded, and the problem is growing.

What are we going to do?
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Re: Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby Ed » Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:41 am

I think one step would be for the land managers to re-open trails that were once available. For example, the Coldwater Trail on the Corona side of Santiago Peak. It was a better trail than the Holy Jim Trail on the other side. My understanding is that it was closed because of objections from Glen Ivy Hot Springs, who own the land around the beginning of the trail. I'm sure Cleveland National Forest could have kept it open, with some combination of carrots and sticks. For example, if the public has been crossing your land for years, which was the case, you lose your full legal right to shut it down. Same for the Falls Creek Trail on the south side of San Gorgonio.

But some of the crowding is the inevitable result of people wanting to do name peaks by the easiest routes - Whitney by the trail, Denali by the West Ridge, Everest by the South Col, etc. - when there are plenty of other climbs as good or better. I am currently grinding my teeth over the advertising of the new movie on Everest, which gives the impression that the South Col route on Everest is the most difficult and dangerous climb in the world, when the number of people killed on it is more the product of the number of people who are on it.
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Re: Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby zippetydude » Mon Sep 14, 2015 11:07 am

Crowding is a strange problem. On the one hand, everyone up there has just as much right as I do to be on the mountain, but on the other hand the solitude that the wilderness can offer is delicious. My own personal perspective (which helps me enjoy every adventure, not just half of them) is to look at the place I'm going and see if I want what I am likely to encounter.

I've done Whitney maybe a half dozen times. Never do I expect to have that trail nor the peak to myself, so I go with the full knowledge that I must expect it to be a social if not actually crowded trip. Same thing for Half-Dome, etc.

When I want some solitude, I pick much less famous peaks (like San G or San B or some desert destination) and either go early or go mid-week. I'm actually amazed that it's not that hard to find silence and empty trails even here in the middle of 30 million Californians. I did San G on Memorial Day a couple of years ago...I started early and hit the peak around 8:30 in the morning...and found myself alone on top of the mountain.

Going on off times and days also makes it more likely to see wildlife. I've seen 6 mountain lions in my travels, and they have always been either very early in the morning or on weekdays.

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Re: Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby cynthia23 » Mon Sep 14, 2015 11:23 am

Wow, you've seen six mountain lions, Zip? That's six and a half more than I want to see. I"m not sure this is a recommendation for uncrowded trails. :)

But seriously, I can deal with busy trails if there is a basic knowledge of trail etiquette. What drives me nuts is the people who don't follow the common 'traffic' rules--i.e. letting uphill hikers pass, pulling over for faster hikers behind you, etc. I actually had a physical collision with a downhill hiker last year who was just determined to keep going no matter who was coming up. Busy trails which are steep and narrow need signage (sorry, Wildhorse!) at the beginning to indicate what the "rules of the road' are.
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Re: Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby Viper » Mon Sep 14, 2015 12:51 pm

I have taught my boys that, in addition to yielding to uphill hikers and letting faster hikers pass, they should err on the side of yielding to the opposite sex, regardless of who is traveling uphill. No need to discard basic manners just because one is on the trail.
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Re: Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby Wildhorse » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:05 pm

The Oxford Hills Sun Journal, in Maine, quoted a long time hiker and rescue worker as saying,
"There has been a shift in the outlook toward the wilderness," he said. In the past, many hikers sought time in the woods for solitude and to get closer to nature. Today, he said, "It's morphed into more of a social scene, a hike with a group."

He also noted how the social scene on trails is connected with the social scene in social media and that taking frequent selfies have become part of hiking.

I see this all the time at Cowles Mountain in San Diego, and I have seen wilderness party hiking in hiking/social clubs in the Coachella Valley. At Cowles, for years many people have touched the monument at the top, ritually. Now the ritual ends with a selfie.

This is part of what is happening in Korea. Social groups hike fast to the top of a peak carrying a large feast to share. It is something like a formal dinner. They dress for the occasion wearing expensive clothing and gear. They speed up the mountain, have their banquet, and then speed back down. Selfies record it all.

It seems that many people on trails today see their hike as a media event. Today, I saw another WSJ story about places where one can hike and stay in luxury resorts. Somewhere else I read that a popular trail in Colorado has been closed because so many hikers have been trying to take selfies with bears.

Hiking is changing. I fear for the land and its wild creatures. I hope the narcissists move on. I suspect the hipsters and indies already have. May they lead others. Soon.
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Re: Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby drndr » Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:18 pm

There is so much wilderness in So. Cal. I am always surprised there isn't more people out hiking and enjoying the outdoors. And getting exercise!! Being lazy and not looking up the numbers I would have to guess there's maybe 15 million people with 50 miles of Mt Baldy. Mt. Baldy you don't need a permit and the most people I have seen (because once I counted) was about 75. That was me coming down via Ski Hut Trail and counting everyone I passed. Figure I missed another 75 and just for fun another 150 takes the Backbone via ski lift. 300 hundred out of 15 million. No big deal. Of course we weren't at the peak at the same time thank god. Look out the window next time you fly anywhere. Plenty of land.

And I agree with Zip. I go early, I don't see many people. I go where others don't , I don't see many people. If I need to stay local for just exercise I expect to run into others. Just take care of the trails when you're on them and be courteous. There's plenty of room for everyone.

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Re: Trail and Peak Crowding

Postby Sally » Tue Sep 15, 2015 8:38 am

I believe everyone has an equal right to use the trail, for whatever motive (selfies, showing off fancy expensive attire, setting a speed record) AS LONG AS they are respectful of other hikers and especially the wilderness.

Hopefully some of the clueless unruly folks that are on the trails as a result of being inspired by some of the recent films will find that hiking is not to their liking and will go back to their couches.

I too have wondered, while gazing out of an airplane window, how many great hikes may be out there that just need a trail. If the masses keep showing up in larger numbers on popular trails maybe there should be a movement to get back into the spirit of trail-building. Too bad there is no money to pay people to do this.

I myself do not have much of a problem with crowds because I start very early and usually hike on weekdays. Also, I often take the trail less travelled.
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