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alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 3:49 pm
by frozenintime
hey all

i noticed that the alta permit page on rec.gov says:

"This entry point does not allow travel on the High Sierra Trail between the Sevenmile Hill Trail and Kaweah Gap; to do so select a "High Sierra Trail" entry point instead."

do we know when this change happened? i've googled it, but haven't found anything.

i last used an alta permit in 2019 to get to tamarack lake/tablelands/etc, which involved a brief dalliance with the high sierra trail. i know it was copacetic that year because a ranger actually checked my permit around buck canyon!

i imagine the HST itself has an increasing amount of impact and overuse issues, but there are many less traveled places adjacent to it that will be harder to reach if you can't even walk a few miles on it in passing.

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 4:28 pm
by Enigmagic
I'm guessing it is new for this year, I had an HST permit last year (also for Tablelands plus some other stuff) and was considering switching it for an Alta permit for easier loop logistics. I don't recall seeing the "limited HST access" warning then. In the end our trip was cancelled due to the fires so I never bothered.

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:37 pm
by grampy
I’m guessing the new prohibition applies primarily in an “uphill/eastbound” direction; i.e. no issues with hikers heading “out” on this HST segment. I also noticed that no such statement exists for Timber Gap permits; it even states the usual restrictions on Hamilton Lake camping - implying that HST access using a Timber Gap permit entry is just fine.
They are probably doing this almost exclusively to mitigate overuse at Hamilton Lake(s).

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:44 am
by TurboHike
I would like to see this modified slightly. For example, why not allow Alta trail hikers to use the High Sierra trail up until Bearpaw Meadow, but not beyond. This still protects Hamilton Lake, but it *would* allow access to Elizabeth Pass and Tamarack Lake by using the high trail from Bearpaw to the Elizabeth Pass trail.

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 2:31 pm
by frozenintime
turbohike, that's the kind of thing i had in mind.
i know that whoever makes these decisions needs to keep many interests and impacts in mind, but it seems a shame if those less visited areas become even harder to access. parts of the elizabeth pass trail are more like a use trail at this point! it's clearly not being loved to death.

another example might be that the popularity of the rae lakes loop/bubbs creek permits means avalanche pass, the sphinx/brewer region, and the reflection/east lake region are harder to gain access to, despite being just a few miles from the trailhead.

that said, the openness of travel on sierra permits is one of the things we love about the range, right? i suppose that more fine grained rules of where you can and can't go on a given permit might eventually dim the light of that openness and adventure. doesn't glacier require you to have every campsite mapped out in advance? that would be a downer!

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:09 am
by rightstar76
From page 9 of the Wilderness Trip Planner last year (May 14, 2020) and previous years, on the Alta trailhead:

...A spur trail connects with the High Sierra Trail

Now on the Wilderness Permits & Reservations page, the words "Wilderness Trip Planner" no longer have a link. When you click on the link for the entry quota map, you see the words "Alta (limited HST access)". At the very least, the quota could have been divided into two groups, no HST and HST.

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 6:28 am
by dougieb
My understanding is that typically backcountry permits regulate where you start and possibly where you can camp on your first day. This seems to go a step further by banning any access to a portion of the park if you start from this trailhead, regardless of what your itinerary looks like. I guess they do this with permits around the Whitney area don't they? For example, if you enter upper kern area via Shepard's pass, don't they want to know whether you're exiting via Whitney and possibly limit those trips? I'd be interested in hearing some more comparables and whatever background is available. Like you say, if an area is getting such heavy use because multiple trailheads have a common destination, then some limitations are warranted but I don't want to see us get to a place where all backcountry camping locations have quotas and the Sierra becomes micromanaged to that degree. I can't imagine that happening but still...

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 7:21 pm
by Enigmagic
dougieb wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 6:28 am
I guess they do this with permits around the Whitney area don't they? For example, if you enter upper kern area via Shepard's pass, don't they want to know whether you're exiting via Whitney and possibly limit those trips? I'd be interested in hearing some more comparables and whatever background is available.
I believe the Trail Crest exit quota only applies to permits starting in Inyo. I imagine it's not a popular exit from west side trailheads apart from the HST so maybe it doesn't matter too much

Other examples... many Mammoth trailheads do not permit access to the JMT, a couple others only allow it directionally, e.g. the JMT South permit does not give access to Yosemite. Down south Trail Pass and Mulkey Pass permits don't allow northbound travel on the PCT/JMT.

I've also heard of folks getting cited for heading up to Cottonwood Lakes and backtracking to Cottonwood Pass to avoid snow on NAP, tho I'm not sure if it was the same day as the permit entry or if they stayed one night in the backcountry first.

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:39 pm
by Wandering Daisy
dougieb- In the past when I got a walk-up permit entering Kearsarge and planning to exit Shepherd Pass, out of curiosity, I asked if I could instead go out Whitney (because I was not real keen on the snow cornice still on Shepherd). To my surprise there were twelve no-shows for the Whitney exit permit. They then wrote my permit with Whitney zone exit and gave me a wag-bag. So there is another benefit of the flexibility of walk-up permits that may not be available anymore if the "new" system stays as proposed.

Re: alta permit and high sierra trail change

Posted: Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:53 am
by chulavista
dougieb wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 6:28 am
My understanding is that typically backcountry permits regulate where you start and possibly where you can camp on your first day. This seems to go a step further by banning any access to a portion of the park if you start from this trailhead, regardless of what your itinerary looks like. I guess they do this with permits around the Whitney area don't they? For example, if you enter upper kern area via Shepard's pass, don't they want to know whether you're exiting via Whitney and possibly limit those trips? I'd be interested in hearing some more comparables and whatever background is available. Like you say, if an area is getting such heavy use because multiple trailheads have a common destination, then some limitations are warranted but I don't want to see us get to a place where all backcountry camping locations have quotas and the Sierra becomes micromanaged to that degree. I can't imagine that happening but still...
Yeah I think they meant to say first night. Would be good to check.

Just imagine if the use-trails between alta and tablelands were put on the map. There would be an explosion of people doing the alta/lakes trail loop.