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Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

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Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby painless4u2 » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:18 pm

We just spent a few days back in Chicago Basin where we had been twice earlier. Anticipating the tough, almost vertical climb up to Twin Lakes, we discovered instead the tremendous work done by the CFI, including building rock stairs, switchbacks, and filling in the old trail with rocks. This almost made the hike up to the lakes a lark!
During the hike up, it was most appreciated. I could also see how the new trail could help prevent erosion. But my question is, are they taking something away from the mountaineering experience? Is it becoming too civilized?
Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed walking up the new trail. But it was so much easier it almost felt like cheating in a way. I've noticed similar work elsewhere, but in Chicago Basin it really struck me.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Bad decisions often make good stories.

"Well, that didn't go as expected." - Brett Maune

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby ameristrat » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:41 pm

To be fair, a lot of the terrible parts on 14ers are cause by erosion courtesy of so many people hiking them. I don't think it makes it too easy. The one trail "improvement" I've never liked are the modifications made beyond the Keyhole on Longs - to me THAT is too much.

Then again without the bullseyes and such, who knows how many clueless people might've seriously injured or killed themselves
You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know. - Rene Daumal

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby painless4u2 » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:53 pm

Yes, I mentioned the benefit of preventing erosion; I see that. I suppose part of the problem (if you can call it that) is I like non-standard routes, where there may not be any trail. You mentioned Longs. Instead of the Keyhole Route we took Keplingers Couloir, a very much unmarked, unimproved route until the Homestretch. It just seems to make for a more authentic mountaineering experience somehow.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Bad decisions often make good stories.

"Well, that didn't go as expected." - Brett Maune

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby TravelingMatt » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:59 pm

Easier? Not sure. You still have to go up them. If trail work makes a summit "easy", then so do guidebooks, message boards, mining roads, SUVs, Gore-Tex and so on.

Safer? Most certainly. Less likely to get lost, slip on rocks or bare dirt, go a longer or harder way then necessary, find yourself in a difficult place to get rescued from etc.
So pleas'd at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
Th' increasing prospects tire our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
-- Alexander Pope

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:26 am

Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

1. Not in winter.
2. Not on alternate routes.
3. Not on 5th class routes.

I personally welcome the work on the standard routes, particularly where the loose sections have been improved.

Not so much "too easy" as less risky, especially on the descent. Thank you, CFI. =D>

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:27 am

Certainly more sustainable and that's why they do the work
Only SNOW will end the madness

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby tlongpine » Sat Aug 24, 2013 7:57 am

A more authentic mountaineering experience would be available along any of the non-standard routes.
I am unable to walk away from the mountain without climbing it. An unclimbed mountain tugs at my consciousness with the eternal weight of time itself. Until I've pressed my face into it's alpine winds, hugged it's ancient granite walls, and put it's weathered summit beneath my heal I'm unable to resist it's attraction.Knowing nature gives the mountain more time than she gives us adds urgency to the obsession. As has been said before; the mountain doesn't care.

It can wait forever. I cannot.

Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby Somewhat of a Prick » Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:02 am

tlongpine wrote:A more authentic mountaineering experience would be available along any of the non-standard routes.


This.

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby painless4u2 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:15 am

I, too, appreciate their work, which is phenomenal. But how far does one go with such improvements? Do they somehow lessen the experience? Let's say they build nice steps all the way to the summit on N. Maroon Peak. That great accomplishment would certainly ease the climb up, but would it create a totally different experience? Certainly it would still require effort to summit, but definately not the same
I understand many would welcome the access and relative safety such work would allow. But like Angel's Landing or the route up Half Dome, both with the chain guard rails in exposed places, what if the same was done across Capital's knife edge? It just wouldn't be the same.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Bad decisions often make good stories.

"Well, that didn't go as expected." - Brett Maune

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby clemsonmtneer » Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:53 am

I get where you're coming from, but having a well-maintained trail still doesn't negate the physical effort required. On harder routes, an improved trail isn't going to turn a class 4 scramble into a class 2 walk-up (although improvements do make route-finding easier, I'll give you that). One who is looking for an "off-the-beaten-path" experience I would imagine is going to look beyond the standard routes on 14ers anyways. Also, the important part about the CFI's trail work is that it lessens our impact in highly traveled areas and to a degree protects the surrounding ecosystem, which is far more important than its impact on our perceived difficulty level of a route. Besides, there are hundreds of <14k peaks with little traffic and no maintained trails to the top that would take away from the experience :-D

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby TallGrass » Sat Aug 24, 2013 9:12 am

Can you offer an alternative?
Let the trail erode to the point it's a hazard?
Or braided further and farther?
Have it shut down until it revegetates?
Institute a permit system or otherwise restrict access?
Put an obstacle every so often so "only true mountaineers" can pass (while everyone else just creates their own path(s) around it)?
Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:

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Re: Is The CFI Trail Work Making 14ers Too Easy?

Postby painless4u2 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 9:34 am

Can you offer an alternative?


I suppose this struck me so much because right after Chicago Basin, we went to Culebra, whose owners try to limit the impact on the mountain by not only having their reservation system, but they encourage no trails at all, asking people to disperse across the mountain. I do NOT want a reservation or quota system for 14ers, however, and I realize, especially on popular mountains, it would be impossible to "disperse climb" most of them.

Perhaps limiting improvements to adding switchbacks and well defined trails would suffice. Building stairs, placing guard chains and other more "artificial" enhancements, while nice, may be going a bit too far, too "disney-esque", if you will.

Edited for spelling error.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Bad decisions often make good stories.

"Well, that didn't go as expected." - Brett Maune

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