Remote area route descriptions

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Harlen
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Remote area route descriptions

Post by Harlen » Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:31 pm

I recently wrote the following comment in windknot's fine fishing and backpacking website:

... I am intrigued by your decision to provide such a wealth of photographic and written descriptions of your trips, without providing any exact details as to the actual locations. ... perhaps your way is best.

In the current topic of JMT overcrowding, our Gazelle writes in a similar vein:
... way to many people! All you need is to go off it a 1/4 mile or so and you will probably have a lake all to yourself...many examples but will not mention as I want them and others to stay that way...also why I have posted less trip reports, or not named where the picture is at.
And Maverick has as his byline:
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.
I too am beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable giving out detailed route information to remote backcountry spots, as I have been doing on the HST forum site. Should we be worried about an influx of crowds into the backcountry next? For instance, on my recent trip into Bear Basin, I found three other parties camped in there, and met more heading in as I hiked out. That's three more groups than we usually find in a week in Bear Basin. One group of young guys heading in asked me about the passes, and I offered some route advice. But they were in a hurry, and said they already had printouts describing every backcountry pass in the area. So what with those pass descriptions, the Secor and Roper books, I guess the cat's at least half out of the bag.

With Hobbes' dire, and likely accurate prediction of future population growth, I am once again considering our response. He speaks of "accepting and adapting," and maybe part of "adapting" to the coming masses should be that we offer less detailed route descriptions, at least for the backcountry areas? I can see how this could at least minimize the expansion of people into the more remote Sierra. As has been mentioned in recent posts, the consolidation of land use is a worthy management goal, i.e., the concentration of most hikers on the JMT-PCT, and other established routes.

There are many other ways to inspire new mountaineers with great trip reports in windknot's style, and with photography, and fishing stories; and to aid them with advice on safety, gear selection, Sierra ecology, and route advice for established trails.

It's a difficult issue. Rightstar makes the good point that more folks equals more advocates for the Parks, which is a definite good. We've always liked the feeling of helping new generations to enjoy the mountains, so withholding detailed route information doesn't feel altogether right. But right now I am leaning that way, under the impression that Maverick and others may be on the right track, that over-informing new mountaineers- at least with regard to remote area routes, "takes away from the whole adventure spirit of the trip."








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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:54 am

I do not think the information per se is the problem. It is the ease of getting it. I see too many "where should I go" questions on this forum, concerning routes, without doing the homework to research first themselves. I particularly hate GPS tracks. Many who will spend 10 minutes downloading a GPS track will not take the effort to look up information in guidebooks. In fact they will not even purchase a guide book. So it is not just our trip reports, but our eagerness to answer too many questions. I tend to fall into that myself- admittedly giving suggestions makes us appear competent; a bit of ego boost there.

Fishermen have always been vague about locations of their adventures. Over-fishing, which can happen with just a few more people, can easily destroy a fishery. It is a vicious cycle with off-trail routes. Detailed information and someone puts of cairns and posts a GPS track. More follow those. A use-trail forms. Because there is a use-trail, more people come. More post trip reports and rave about the route. The route gets a "big name", becoming part of "to-do" lists. In several years, the route is no longer what it started as. It is just another impacted route with little chance of solitude. Obscure routes never "named", even if information is out there, seem to get less use.

Personally, I would like trip reports to still correctly label photos, and accurately describe the general route, but I could do without detailed off-trail route information and DEFINITELY, NO GPS TRACKS!. There are a lot more sources of information than our forum. We also underestimate the impact of Google Earth and search engines that allow us to easily find tons of information with little effort. Seems like every backpacker nowadays wants to have a blog.

Interesting side-note; When I was in Wyoming this summer I stopped at two stores and they have had to put up signs that say taking photos of maps and pages from books with one's I-phone is theft. Evidently the trend now is to thumb through a book in the store, take photos, and not purchase the books. Some even blatantly take photos of maps tacked to the walls. They think all information is free to them. One store owner is almost ready to put the books in locked display cabinets, like they do for expensive electronic gear.

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by SSSdave » Tue Sep 11, 2018 10:15 am

Many fishermen and serious photographers are already on board. During the early years of the Internet, users posted lots on information freely without concern but then over years such has increasingly caused issues. One can now set up bots that 24 hours a day roam the Internet searching for terms and daily log URL results. Terms like "large trout' or whatever. There is considerable proof that such information has led to some locations that were once relatively unknown despite not previously being secret, becoming over run. The audience for the Internet is far greater than any text in guide books. Some of these places were in fact in books. A photography location example during spring wildflower season is Shell Creek in San Luis Obispo County and Cottonwood Canyon in Santa Barbara Counties among a list of others. By 2006 the days of Internet posting freely without concern were over in our regional web communities.

Today once a location is revealed on the Internet it will forever be public. Two decades ago if a location was in some out of print guide book, unless such received an updated edition, that information would over years disappear and in any case the numbers of people with a specific book were relatively few. Same thing for other older media like outdoor adventure shows, newspapers, or magazine interviews. The two early 70s Wilderness Press guide books Sierra North and Sierra South provided fish abundance and fish size information for lakes in their trip features. Over decades a whole lot of fishermen went to places like Lake South America because of text reporting large trout.

Thus today depending on how public a location has become and how potentially important a location is, determines the level of information I may provide. For instance a fisherman ought have no issue posting information about having visited Rock Lake if they report catching pan-sized brook trout even if abundant because that would be of little interest to other fishermen so that would not cause any future increase in visitations. However if one posted an online image of a stringer of 3 large golden trout caught in identified Rock Lake, one could be certain others would be planning trips. Likewise if one posts ho-hum photos where one visited that likewise would generate little interest. But a strongly aesthetic image like those below, especially if one is a noted photographer is sure to be noticed.

My own strategy is to identify vaguely. Here is a 2006 page on my website of a lake reflection in 20 Lakes Basin with Mt Conness and North Peak that I identify in the text:

http://www.davidsenesac.com/images/print_06-GG-33.html

There are far more than 20 lakes and ponds in that basin so someone trying to find my tripod location would need to do a fair amount of exploring and if so they've earned it. What I don't do is describe a map location or worse a GPS location.

Another example is this bristlecone pine image. All someone can glean from the text is that it is somewhere in the White Mountains, a vast area.

http://www.davidsenesac.com/images/print_06-Y-15.html

Thus I may identify a location vaguely as Fresno County or John Muir Wilderness or Kings Canyon National Park, that are large regions. In some cases a savvy map person with some topo geometry work could identify a location by image alone. I can readily do so but also know 99% of others that might see such won't have a clue so is trivial.

In the case of backcountry routes, the same vague strategy can be applied. One might show an image from the top of a no name pass but in most cases that is not going to allow others to repeat and if it is, don't use it.

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:33 pm

Someone posted in a facebook group a picture of a mountain and a lake "somewhere in the Sierra". Someone else asked where it was. Less than half an hour with topo maps, and I accurately described where the person was standing where she took the picture. I am not particularly fantastic with a map either, I've not been training monthly in navigation like I used to.... It's not so difficult as people think it is to figure this stuff out. Telling them to figure it out themselves is enough of a hurdle tho, so that's what I've done for a long time. Ever since I posted pics of trout I caught in one lake, and the next year returned to find tons of trash, old powerbait floating in the water, and wads of fishing line all around. Maybe my pic wasn't what did it but it probably helped. Sure, I blame the folks who commit the crimes, but I don't need to help them along by making it so easy.

Seeing the lines of cars out in Carrizo Plain last superbloom told me lots about the power of social media....

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by rightstar76 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:38 am

Is this what we've become?

I looked at old HST posts from years ago and there was an openness and goodwill. Have we lost that?

Maybe HST should have a paywall. Then the few who want and have the means can talk all they want about their special places in the Sierra Nevada. An exclusive club.

Or encourage people to be secretive about where they took a picture or camped. Lots of snarky comments about some place in the Sierra Nevada that only our exclusive group knows about. It's already happening.

Then there are some of the harsh comments lately made to hikers who openly disclose why they couldn't make it to a destination. Chewing them out for not knowing what they're doing and advising them not to try again. No surprise if they ever post again. And others who have never posted may hesitate. Many will just leave HST and go to FB.

What is the future of HST? Will it continue to be a great repository of information that people can use when they plan their trips? A forum of civil dynamic discussion that enables outdoor enthusisasts who love the Sierra Nevada to expand their horizons? Or will it devolve into a shadow of its former self, closed and secluded? What route will it take?

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by AlmostThere » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:50 am

I'm not sure who is chewing people out, but I'm not on much these days. I give people kudoes for turning around instead of becoming SAR subjects. You shouldn't die on vacation...

There has to be a balance in this somewhere. The problem exists and all you have to do is come out with me and pick up TP and trash, both on the increase with the radical shift to masses of people hitting the wilderness, some of which should stick to roads. Listen to the official traffic on radios and you know the choppers are crisscrossing the mountains picking up 3-4 people per day (just on my forest, I would bet you Inyo is 10x worse) when they get in over their heads. Social media is far too inclusive. Openness and goodwill, sure, I told 10 different groups they were going the wrong way and did so pleasantly -- we helped 50 people move from illegal anti-LNT campsites as well. That was a single weekend, btw.

The reality is, NO ONE needs to know where pictographs or other Native American artifacts are, and NO ONE should openly post any site they want to be kept as is, because the reality is, these places WILL be trashed, by quota-violating groups. Anyone who wants to see proof of that, I can start listing and posting pictures.

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by rightstar76 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:57 am

AlmostThere, I hear your frustration. The Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and Kaiser Wilderness are close to Fresno and extremely popular. Kind of like the Angeles National Forest. People trash it all the time. It's a constant battle to educate and inculcate a culture of caring. Won't happen overnight.

I admire you for the difficult, physically demanding, and unpaid work you do for Wilderness Corps. It must feel like Sisyphus rolling the ball up the hill and just when you get to the top, it rolls back down again. The frustration is understandable. I imagine I would feel the same after devoting so many years to making the wilderness a more beautiful special place. You are to be commended for your sacrifice and dedication.

But that shouldn't stop HST from being the open and beautiful forum that people have used for the past 15 years to plan trips, share trip reports and pictures, and civily converse around the online campfires that dot this wondrous forum.

Wisdom and moderation are key to sharing anything on HST. Yes, I agree showing detailed route descriptions to sacred artifacts is foolish. But sharing pictures, campsites and routes is completely reasonable and contributes to the rich tapestry of HST.

I tend to give out information in a general way, but specific enough so people know where to go, while still having the freedom to pick their own routes and campsites. This makes sense since alot of folks don't like to be held by the hand and would much rather figure it out on their own. After all, that is what makes backcountry travel fun. Then there are those who want more help and information, and in a very rare few cases, too much. It's a balancing act. Kind of like riding a bicycle. Depending on the situation, sometimes I give out more, sometimes less. But I like to keep it as open as possible.

About social media, with the exception of the SHR, I don't think people are going to go way off into the backcountry. First, it's too time consuming and second, takes too much effort. Even bucket listers who have been inspired to try the SHR because of social media often quit the first day or two because it's much more challenging than the JMT. Not to mention very few opportunities to socialize! :)

So we should not be afraid to share our routes, pictures, and campsites. We also must remember this is not FB. People have to make a concerted effort to visit HST. If they want to post, they first need to register. Then their posts need to contain reasonable content before they get a meaningful response. Not I wanna go to Yosemite gimme a trail guide. Most people take the time to ask well thought out questions. And it's a pleasure to respond.

So we should move forward openly and fear not that people will go to Kaweah Basin in droves. They won't. Instead, cherish the openness and sharing that has made HST such a wonderful place to visit. Encougage and inform when needed, gently advise when required. Be kind.

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by SSSdave » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:36 pm

rs >>> "...So we should not be afraid to share our routes, pictures, and campsites."

Sure if it is some ho-hum place or already public knowledge.

As I noted, at photography boards these conversations came to a head more than a decade ago and have long since been beaten to death. Generally pros and more experienced learned to clam up just like fishermen protecting lakes or reefs out in the Pacific with large fish while novices not surprisingly whined about the value of openness. At this point there is absolute no chance zero zilch that attitude is going to change from my side of the fence as we've already seen the results when exposing little or unknown special locations on the web. Pictures sure but not directions as to where. Eric is right by forcing visitors to have an account and be logged on to access the fishing sub-forum.

There was no grapevine of elites or guidebooks informing this person where subjects were. I tell those complaining to do it the way I did by putting your boots on then exploring yourself. You'll have fun and get into good shape haha (:

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by Snowtrout » Sun Sep 16, 2018 8:28 am

Great questions and discussion. To me, it seems currently the "in" thing to do is routes through the central Sierra, with most more interested in checking that route off a list instead of enjoying it for its beauty. Proof--how many new member posts seen on HST have asked "can this route be done in this many days?"

I believe this will cycle itself out, something I have seen in fishing. Today's hot route or fishing area will diminish over time and be replaced by the next "new" route or area. Unfortunately, overuse will leave its mark far after the crowds have left.

HST has a great community whose members have a wealth of information. I have asked questions regarding a area's difficulty and safety and the information shared was spot on, allowing my wife and I to safely choose the route that met our needs. Hope that never changes.

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Re: Remote area route descriptions

Post by giantbrookie » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:44 pm

Personally I would like to be more open about fishing spots, etc., but the prevailing environment has caused me to do the usual "speaking in code", while providing enough info so enterprising folks can sleuth things out.

My "old" philosophy was to be very open about the following: 1. places that are already heavily used (Desolation Wilderness for example), 2. places that are very hard to reach, but excluding those places that are lightly used but relatively easy to reach. This was how I did things way back (pre 2010) when I had my own little website. I did in fact receive some strong criticism by some for mentioning certain places, with the most spectacular being a series of messages about one lake that culminated with "I would be willing to pay you a lot of money if you removed mention of --------- Lake from your website" (I did not take the writer up on their offer).

I think the biggest issue in publicizing things is generally folks' favorite fishing spots rather than routes. As for routes to remote places, which would mean off trail routes, I never write up an off trail route in detail for at least reasons: 1. I see things the way Maverick does, 2. I don't usually keep track of ledge-by-ledge, rock-by-rock stuff myself (except for some key moves on peak bagging routes) because a big part of the fun for me is improvising terrain reading while there (after having done initial topo map feasibility). 3. It is my opinion (and I could be way off base in this) that too many people rely too heavily on paint-by-numbers sort of descriptions so that folks that lack the requisite terrain reading skills will slavishly follow the rock-by-rock descriptions thinking that this obviates the need to learn and improve their on-spot terrain reading skills (which should build on topo map reading skills). I think this has gotten some folks lost and over-their-heads. Maybe I'm wrong, but I do not want to contribute to any safety issues out there.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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