HikeSierraNevada wrote:Whitney has an exit permit for those starting from any TH within Inyo.
There are a couple of differences between Whitney & Donohue that render this a poor comparison:
First, the vast majority of permits issued from Whitney are two-way for those entering & returning from/to Portal. Exit permits are basically an administrative procedure to keep track of others returning from points north, south & west. In order to provide a similar comparison, people would have to be primarily hiking from TM to Donohue and back.
Second, Whitney is a single, remote destination unto itself, whereas TM is the integrated heart of a very popular activity center, transit point and trail system. TM incorporates all kinds of activities, including casual strollers, day hikers, thru-hikers, campers, etc. Whitney permits can be (and are) checked at the beginning of the zone @ Lone Pine lake because that is a natural choke point - there is nowhere else to go. To the contrary, TM has trips originating both within and external to the park - it's a natural hub from/to all the surrounding NFs.
Third, for those lacking an 'official' exit permit to Portal, to my knowledge there isn't any enforcement for those electing to exit there rather than return to their stipulated exit. This makes sense for a couple of reasons, one, people are often physically unable to continue back to wherever they originally planned to hike, and two, Portal is the terminus, so they are exiting the trail.
To properly compare trail policing of Whitney to the JMT, the logical point would be placing a ranger above Nevada falls - just like they already have now for Half Dome. All YNP needs to do to manage their respective system is to determine the number of entry permits for each respective TH within the park (eg TM, HI, GP, etc) that people might wish to utilize in order to gain access to the JMT that they can directly control and be done with it.
That's all they can really do - given the particular circumstances and relationship TM plays, there are way too many variables in play to attempt to manage volume by simple, heavy handed proposals. If anyone recollects, management was trying to go down this path in the 90s for the Valley; if you recall that, then you'll remember the public backlash and withdrawal.
What I think we're really seeing is park management is loathe to admit that TM is going the way of the Valley. I think in their minds, the Valley was abandoned decades ago in terms of providing a quiet mountain experience, but TM was going to the their last redoubt. Now that it is in effect falling to the same ill effects of popularity (ah, the curse of beauty & access), whether from spill over from those skipping the Valley altogether, PCT/JMT thru-hikers, etc, they are displaying classic a Kubler-Ross response cycle before they finally accept what is occurring.