in the 21st century, leading a peak climbing trip is easier by
far. Technological wonders to assist in positioning, as well as
detailed climbing descriptions are now affordable and available.
But there are catches to what marvels sportings goods stores or
electronic warehouses may try to sell you on.
- GPS-- While these are good for locating
exactly where you are, they do not operate well in all locations.
Satellite signals may not penetrate into mountain canyons, you
may still need a good topo, and batteries can go out. From what I've
seen from people using these, the data gained may change by the
millisecond due to lack of the requisite three or four satellites
being in reception, and the data transmitted has still to be
interpreted. They do take some time to lock in on your location. Few hikers will carry a long straightedge to precisely
mark the longitude and latitude on their maps. Although, now,
some devices may display maps and your exact position on their
monitors. But, if you drop or dunk one, they, like many electronics,
may no longer work!
- Cell Phone and PLB--The same problem of reception
makes the use of cell phones also dubious. It's said that you can make
a call from the top of Mt. Whitney, but not generally enroute
to the top! The trail runs at the bottom of a canyon, and a line-of-sight
signal is needed for these. I had once surmised having one of
these would assist in getting yourself help should you injure
yourself while traveling solo. Don't count on it! Many areas do not have coverage. And, as for personal locator beacons, there've
been problems convincing help to go and get you. They know some of those signals sent out to rescue someone are false, and they can be switched on accidentally!
- CD topos--One of the great efforts at
dissemination of information, commercially bought CDs offer the
fullest map coverage in the country. Websites now offer free maps for printing. You have only tech-disenabled excuses,
now, not to have printed or saved map copies of the area you plan to hike
in. Would you believe when I started doing this, in earnest,
during the late 1970's, some areas still did not have modern
- Guidebooks--Yes, there is work ongoing
to perfect descriptions, and the older books not only gave out
wrong directions, they did not always have any directions at
all! Technical ratings have improved, as the routes are done
over and over by more and more experienced mountaineers. Recording
pictures of the mountain has been made cheaper and easier with
better and better cameras, and with the Internet and e-mail,
many will be pleased to exhibit the view of a peak or route.
I had planned to have a picture guide to the peaks at one time,
with drawn-in arrows pointing where to head, and, upon your getting
there, to look to another picture with an arrow! I certainly
have a lot of photos to do this, but not the will, or reader interest,
currently. And terrain looks different under distinct lighting
conditions (weather, morning to evening).
- Liability concerns--Yes, the Sierra Club
terminated climbing sections, or greatly curtailed activities,
but now, they use mandatory waivers and your personal medical history and condition on forms to avoid lawsuits. While
the section I started never had any serious injuries or problems,
others did have them, and the petty hate politics of the local
chapter was the largest factor in the dissolution of the best
opportunity, ever, for local interest to climb, hike, and ski
in the backcountry. Some training requirements have attempted
to make leaders more proficient and skilled in their activities,
rather than being simply well-intentioned volunteers. More the
problem was incompetent or disinterested, even malicious, overview,
who, in the case of the local chapter, "got rid" of
the experienced leaders and sought to replace them with beginners
who knew little or nothing of what they were supposed to undertake.
At least one dead hiker was a result, to say nothing of government
expense looking for lost people!
- Internet--There are loads of people willing
to help you climb a mountain. You can read, for free, accounts
by many, and now, there are photo sites and You Tube videos. While
you'd have to know some as better-than-average climbers to get
some good realization on their times, beginners can extrapolate,
adding on whatever percentage of hours to the time given out
by a briskly moving group that knows the way! I used to dwell
on message boards and other hiking and climbing websites. Nowdays,
you can do a search on a peak name, and come up with plenty of
relevant hits. By the nature of the Net, you do have to worry about misleading and bad information, as the tech disenabled, pranksters, and ill-informed people abound. I find some videos and photos helpful, and many have posted movies of some climbing routes online, which seem to be genuine.
- Regulations--A talk in July, 2011, with a government officer informed me that special use permits are required for organized trips, as far as one popular, local peak. Guide services do pay for them, and you can be considered a "rogue guide" if you do not comply with this rule. I used to deem it an activity among friends when I led trips, with no fees charged, therefore then outside the purview of these regulations. In the past, they told me "commercial use" only for requiring permit fees. Now, they say, "organized trips," and that includes climbs by groups formed by an "ad," looking for partners, on even the Internet. While I suppose this will be further clarified, I wish to inform people of what I was told, so I am no longer accepting partners outside of people that I already know, at least as far as this one particular peak. Budgets are in crisis, and the agencies need money. It's a good idea to have insurance if you do guide anyone, and to make people aware of the dangers and risks. How this all affects hiking clubs remains to be seen...
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