is heli-hiking cheating?

I’ve only done it twice — both times to Mt. Assiniboine — and can confirm riding the bird is … GREAT.

Sure I’m polluting the atmosphere. And distracting the teeny tiny hikers below, sweating the 8hr uphill slog with a full pack. (It takes me 8min.)

But on arrival it’s like you landed in Heaven. Fresh. Excited. Already at altitude.

Wow!

A little more thoughtful analysis from John Flinn in the San Francisco Chronicle arrives at the same conclusion:

I’ve known about heli-hiking for years, but stayed away until last fall because of three big concerns: Are the wilderness lodges a burden on the fragile alpine landscape? Do the frequent helicopter sorties spoil the solitude of those who walk into these mountains under their own power? And would I feel the same mountaintop exhilaration if I didn’t “earn” it through sweat equity?

In other words, is heli-hiking cheating?

By the end of my three-day stay, though, I was pretty much won over. Now my biggest concern is the cost: Unless you have the net worth of a CEO — and many guests do — the $700-a-day price puts it into the splurge-of-a-lifetime category.

Heli-hiking keeps high peaks within reach

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Happily for the environment I can rarely afford the high fee. You’ll normally find me sweating on the trail, cursing the lazy so-and-sos that chopper past overhead.

Moab, Utah – living a lie?

I went to Moab to hike.

moab-green.jpgWhen I told other tourists that Moab had been awarded a major environmental award as a “green town” they thought I was joking.

Located on the Colorado River near the state line between Utah and Colorado, is the 4-square mile City of Moab. A desert oasis, the 5,000 or so Moab residents host over a million tourists annually. Visitors come to enjoy the adjacent National Parks Arches and Canyonlands, the Dead Horse Point State Park as well as biking, hiking, water sports and gorgeous vistas.

To most tourists who pass through Moab annually, it’s a hot, noisy highway lined with junky, over-priced souvenir shops.

Moab is perhaps less known for being the Nation’s first EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Green Power Community and a steward for clean energy. Under the leadership of Mayor Dave Sakrison, the town began purchasing wind power for 50% of the City Office building electricity demand in 2003. Local electricity customers were encouraged to purchase pollution-free wind energy through Utah Power’s Blue Sky voluntary wind program. As a result Moab became the region’s first Blue Sky Community.

Desert City Leads Utah Clean Energy Movement (TreeHugger)

I hope Mayor Sakrison is not buying his own press. If Moab is the model of a town of the future, we are all in trouble.

Moab reminds me more of Mad Max than a desert oasis. The road warriors here ride gas guzzling jeeps. Or modified Hummers if they can afford the rental.

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Highpointhummer.com

Another opinion:

Can’t say I am thrilled to be in Moab other than to get my final resupply box and get out of town. Never much cared for this place despite trying to like it. The community here is great, certainly friendly folks, but something about the constant marketing vibe that runs through town just bugs me…Adventure This! and Adventure That! Extreme! I know it is a tourist based economy and one that caters to thrill seekers (whether motorized or not) but it just is a bit over the top.

ULA – Hayduke Trail 2005

I’m overstating the problems. Likely Moab is on the right track. The boom there is relatively recent.

If you turn off the highway into town you’ll find great school grounds, fantastic bike trails, an award winning library. And some amazing facilities for a town of this size.

If you are ready to pack up and move to Moab, speak up and leave a comment.

MEC Hydrofoil Jacket – dry and warm

UPDATE – I am LOVING this jacket after using it for a couple of weeks of cold desert nights in southern Utah.

==== original post April 27, 2007:

After doing a fair bit of comparison shopping on-line, I finally jumped for a new coat, the third in my hiking career.

It’s the inexpensive MEC Hydrofoil Jacket: C$99 (US$88). A bit heavy at just under 1lb (425gms).

Yet this jacket just felt “right” when I put it on. (Will report back how it handles the trail.)

Built to provide outdoor generalists with compact wet-weather protection and the comfort of breathability, at an affordable price. Lightweight and packable, this fully seam-taped, unlined garment is good for travelling in wet climates or where foul weather is expected.

The interior is coated with Toray’s Entrant® DT microporous polyurethane coating, which is waterproof, moderately breathable, and durable. Unlined garments are much lighter and pack smaller than lined garments. So you are more likely to bring them along in uncertain weather.

* Made of 50-denier mini twill ripstop100% nylon.
* Exterior is treated with Kudos Super Durable Water Repellency treatment.
* Hip-length, relatively loose fit for comfort and easy layering over light to mid-weight garments.
* Fully taped seams for maximum wet-weather protection.
* Integral, fully adjustable hood with reinforced brim for full weather resistance.
* Pits zips for added ventilation.
* Two zippered outer pockets.
* Velcro® adjustable sleeve cuffs.
* Elastic drawcord at bottom hem.
* All flaps stiffened to prevent them getting caught in zippers.

MEC Hydrofoil Jacket (Men’s) – Mountain Equipment Co-op

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Parks Canada Fees are too high

Many entrance fees went up April 1st for Canadian National Parks.

How do the prices for Banff National Park, Alberta compare with the National Parks near you?

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(screen shot)

The best value for hikers, we feel, is the annual Family / Group pass. An entire vehicle of hikers gets into 27 participating National Parks for C$123.80 (US$110.21).

We think fees are already too high. That Parks Canada is not accountable enough for how the money is spent. Here’s the rationale:

Entry and service fees are charged at most national parks and national historic sites, where revenues are kept to support visitor services and facilities. This means that every time you visit a park or site you are investing in its future — and in a legacy for future generations.

Parks Canada – Banff National Park of Canada – Fees

In the past hikers have illegally swapped around “Family” passes from vehicle to vehicle as needed for each trip. This practice will increase as costs go up.

Get Outdoors even discussed illegal buying and selling of Park passes. (Especially those left behind in rental cars.)

With every politician and corporation on the green bandwagon, why can’t Parks Canada come up with some big donations?

Leave a comment if you have an opinion.

controversial new bridge to Machu Picchu

A village near Peru‘s Machu Picchu has built a bridge over a turbulent river to open another route for backpackers trekking to the lofty Inca ruins.

The bridge was inaugurated Saturday in the village of Santa Teresa despite the objections of government cultural experts, who fear increased tourism could threaten the UNESCO World Heritage site as hostels and restaurants spring up to serve travelers.

But authorities in Santa Teresa, less than 10 miles from Machu Picchu, are hoping the bridge over the Vilcanota River will help the local economy get a piece of the tourism pie. …

The new route, involving a daylong bus ride through twisting dirt roads and a seven-mile hike along railroad tracks, targets thrifty backpackers who want to avoid the pricey train tickets.

An average of 2,000 tourists a day visit Machu Picchu, with a maximum set at 2,500. Some archaeologists say the limit should be much lower, arguing that large numbers of visitors trekking over the stone steps will eventually damage the ruins.

White Rock Reviewer

I have mixed feelings. I too worry about degrading the Machu Picchu experience. On the other hand, another option for hikers is a good thing.

Leave a comment if you know more about the new bridge.

The nearest current hike to Santa Teresa is what we call the Salcantay Trek. (information page)

attendance declining – USA National Parks

We’ve pooh-poohed the “doom and gloom” mongers in the past.

And we’ve even been part of the problem, criticizing drastic increases in National Park fees.

But perhaps this IS serious.

If the population does not want to visit National Parks, the Parks themselves will suffer most.

… attendance at Yosemite has dropped 17%, Death Valley at 28%, and camping and back-country trips are down 24% overall.

The Economist says “The importance of this decline can hardly be over-estimated for big environmental organisations such as the Sierra Club: they have depended on what one expert calls “a transcendent experience in nature”, usually in childhood, to gain new members and thus remain powerful lobbyists for environmental causes.”

No Child Left Inside: Economist on National Parks (TreeHugger)

What do you think?

Do we need to rally those who love the outdoors? Ask everyone to purchase an Annual National Parks pass in their country to support the outdoor cause?

Snowman Trek, Bhutan

Rogier Gruys is an expert on the West Coast Trail in Canada, the hike we rated #1 in the world. Rogier’s BluePeak Travel Photography pics of the WCT are still the best we’ve ever seen.

But Rogier likes the Snowman Trek even better.

Very few have ever done that long Himalayan trek (minimum 19 days) due to high cost (US$200 / day) and high risk.

The Snowman trek is the most difficult trek in Bhutan because one has to walk and camp at high altitude for nearly three weeks. As long as one has no problems with the high altitude and the weather is good, it is not a particularly difficult trek. But, if something were to happen along the way, someone would have to carry you down to the nearest house, or try to find a telephone to get a helicopter from Thimphu. Both are often several days’ walk. Initially, many people planned and wanted to go with us on the trek, but in the end they all bailed out and only two of us went.

Snowman trek description, Bhutan

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BluePeak photo – high resolution version – flickr

Rogier recommends the Cicerone guidebook. It’s essential advanced reading for anyone considering trekking in Bhutan.

A Trekker's Guide (Cicerone)

Bhutan: A Trekker’s Guide (Cicerone)