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Cairn pollution


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Viewing 16 posts - 26 through 41 (of 41 total)
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  • #3760364
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    I’m with Craig on this. Speaking for myself, route finding is not my forte. It’s reassuring to see a duck on tricky terrain. I don’t go out to feel anxious about being lost. I don’t carry gps or a phone. I usually hike solo. Knowing that others have made the same route decisions as me is a good thing. It’s the equivalent of turning to a partner and asking if they think we’re on the right route. Confirmation.

    #3760385
    Tom K
    BPL Member

    @tom-kirchneraol-com-2

    I agree with Buck, Craig, and JS.  In context they have their utility, especially on difficult terrain, although following ducks/cairns on XC routes does present the danger of following someone who was off route.  In the final analysis, there’s no substitute for being able to read the terrain and decide your route accordingly.  In the beginning that will inevitably lead to mistakes, but that is part of one’s mountain education and they will diminish with time, although never disappear entirely.

    Comment on human nature:  While I empathize with OP, my sense is that trying to get people to stop building cairns is akin to trying to get dogs to stop peeing on fire hydrants.  Both seem to have an innate compulsion to mark their territory.

     

    #3760447
    Steve
    BPL Member

    @steve-2

    Locale: Eastern Washington

    FWIW:  Tom K (+ Buck, Craig and JS) have my vote.

    YMMV

    #3760448
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Visual pollution – or arcane art form?
    (Via Alpina, Europe, near tourist town.)

    Cheers

    #3760454
    R L
    BPL Member

    @slip-knot

    Locale: SF Bay Area, East Bay

    News flash…. Three hikers enter Labyrinth never to be seen again.

    #3760455
    jimmyjam
    BPL Member

    @jimmyjam

    Locale: Mid Atlantic

    Sometimes it might appear that they are not needed when they are- for example on exposed mountain where it often gets thick fog. On a sunny day they will look totally unnecessary. But hiking thru the same area when visibility is poor, you’ll be thankful to see that pile of rocks looming out of the fog.

    #3760457
    Jeff McWilliams
    BPL Member

    @jjmcwill

    Locale: Midwest

    In the Adirondacks of upstate New York, the NYS DEC has placed large cairns on the top of some of the most popular peaks in the Eastern High Peaks region.  People visit those peaks even in winter, and blowing snow can make finding the trail impossible without them, leading to calls to 911 and rescue operations.  Even with the large cairns erected by park personnel, they still have a number of winter rescues due to people sometimes being unable to find the trail leading off the summit.

    Still, it’s important to differentiate between THOSE cairns and the “rock stacks” that hikers erect for “art”.  Count me in the group that opposes artful rock stacking for all the reasons already stated.

    #3760459
    Chris K
    BPL Member

    @cmkannen-2-2

    Yes, the artful stacking of rocks is what I was imagining here as well, and what was starting to happen in that basin I mentioned in RMNP. Not at all for navigation. Or maybe one or two were there for navigation, but it soon becomes 10-15, then 25… the more piles there are, the more people are inclined to add to the stacking.

    #3760461
    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member

    @kbabione

    Locale: Pennsylvania

    It’s a tough balance…A couple of weeks ago I spent 4 days above treeline in the White Mountains.  For 3 of the 4 days we were completely socked in by the clouds and the cairns were sometimes the only reference we had to stay on/near the trail.  I’d rather see cairns than signs, but, as Jeff mentioned, I want the navigation aids, not someone’s “art.”

    #3760467
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    Apropos of marking trails above timberline. Another person died on Long’s Peak this week, happens every year. His death was apparently associated with bad weather, not a fall. It’s a somewhat lengthy hike, with some exposure, but not particularly difficult. He reached emergency responders by phone or somehow and was told to go to the climber’s shelter, but apparently didn’t find it.

    He was found off-route, which is typically the case in these deaths. Sometimes going off-route leads to a fall.

    #3760474
    Jeff McWilliams
    BPL Member

    @jjmcwill

    Locale: Midwest

    I’ve done that route.  He got lost and off-route on “The ledges” portion.  There are a series of “bullseye” markers spray-painted on the rock on the ledges section.  The article I read states that on the day of the accident, there was winter condition, with snow, ice, and winds.    The spray painted markers may not have been visible in those conditions.  And although my experience there was more than 5 years ago, I can’t recall the Ledges being an area where you could construct cairns for navigation, at least not the large permanent types often erected by park rangers.

    Also, it doesn’t sound like he fell, but rather succumbed to hypothermia.  14ers.com rates the Keyhole route as 3rd class, but with high exposure and commitment, and “considerable” rockfall potential and route-finding.

    According to the press release, “Jacobs was unprepared for winter conditions or to spend an unplanned night at elevations above 13,000 feet”

    #3760475
    Jeff McWilliams
    BPL Member

    @jjmcwill

    Locale: Midwest

    Link to route description for the keyhole route with lots of photos.

    https://www.14ers.com/route.php?route=long1

     

    #3760485
    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member

    @philip-ak

    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    This is a low-consequences example, but here is a spot where I think a few well-placed cairns would make sense. You can see in the upper right of the pic there is good agreement on where the trail is because it is going through pretty thick sub-alpine vegetation and is obvious. Suddenly you transition to alpine veg and bedrock and because there is no obvious ‘best way’ to climb up the semi-rocky terrain, fanning out is common and lots of small spurs develop. Once on top of outcrop most hikers re-coalesce onto an obvious route (lower left in the pic). These are just my tracks through this area. If I turn on public tracks it’s a real mess.

    That said, I would certainly get annoyed if cairns proliferated for no good reason.

    #3760486
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    ^This is a great example Philip. It leads to the question of whether or not concentrating those tracks into a “path” (more or less) with cairns causes less impact than letting them disperse. Many factors likely go into this calculation…if impact is even a primary consideration. Maybe safety is a higher priority in some areas. This is probably something for local outdoor cultures to decide.

     

    #3760493
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    I’ve done that route.  He got lost and off-route on “The ledges” portion.  There are a series of “bullseye” markers spray-painted on the rock on the ledges section.  The article I read states that on the day of the accident, there was winter condition, with snow, ice, and winds.    The spray painted markers may not have been visible in those conditions.  And although my experience there was more than 5 years ago, I can’t recall the Ledges being an area where you could construct cairns for navigation, at least not the large permanent types often erected by park rangers.

    Also, it doesn’t sound like he fell, but rather succumbed to hypothermia.  14ers.com rates the Keyhole route as 3rd class, but with high exposure and commitment, and “considerable” rockfall potential and route-finding.

    According to the press release, “Jacobs was unprepared for winter conditions or to spend an unplanned night at elevations above 13,000 feet”

    Correct it was at the ledges, I’m familiar.

    Whether or not cairns would be useful in this particular case, this is hopefully an interesting counterpoint to the comments from people who are saying that navigational aids aren’t necessary.

    And if you read my post, I explicitly pointed out that he did not fall. However, there are multiple deaths from falls every year in the Colorado high country, and these often occur when people get off the trail and cliff out. And yes, it often happens in bad weather, but so what … bad weather happens all the time and that has to be part of the consideration. We’re not making trails that can only be hiked/scrambled in perfect conditions.

    #3760496
    Jeff McWilliams
    BPL Member

    @jjmcwill

    Locale: Midwest

    Dan,

    👍

     

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