Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

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wildhiker
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Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by wildhiker » Tue Oct 29, 2019 12:45 pm

Just saw this blog post on the Pacific Crest Trail Association website:
https://www.pcta.org/2019/changes-2020- ... mit-67718/

Here's the change that affects PCTers in the Sierra:
Travel in the Southern Sierra (Kennedy Meadows South to Sonora Pass) must be continuous with no skips or changes in direction. If you exit the Southern Sierra to do more than resupply or wish to re-enter at a different trailhead, perhaps after hiking elsewhere, you must obtain a new permit from the local land management agency if you wish to hike in the Southern Sierra. Your PCT long-distance permit will no longer be valid for travel through the Southern Sierra as your travel is no longer continuous.
I interpret this to mean that if you are thru-hiking the PCT and decide the Sierra is too snowy and need to skip it, you will have to apply for a regular Sierra wilderness permit just like everyone else to come back and do it later. The stated objective (see the full blog post) is to "protect the area during the middle of summer". That is, to prevent overcrowding by lots of extra PCTers coming back in mid-summer, when all trailhead quotas for other backpackers are already pretty fully in use.

I think this will reduce some overuse in mid-summer, but will it lead to more injuries or deaths from PCTers who keep going in early summer of high snow years even when conditions are too dangerous for them, just because they are determined to hike the entire trail and are worried they could not get a permit later to come back?

-Phil








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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by oleander » Tue Oct 29, 2019 2:34 pm

wildhiker wrote:
Tue Oct 29, 2019 12:45 pm
I think this will reduce some overuse in mid-summer, but will it lead to more injuries or deaths from PCTers who keep going in early summer of high snow years even when conditions are too dangerous for them, just because they are determined to hike the entire trail and are worried they could not get a permit later to come back?

-Phil
Exactly. That was the first thing I thought too.

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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Oct 29, 2019 5:08 pm

I think this will only impact trailheads that are used as standard resupply points and mostly at both ends of the Sierra. Depends on where they do the "flip-flop". Tahoe area may be a problem too, since there already is heavy use and limited quotas and it is a logical northern re-entry point. Cottonwood is also a common trailhead to exit if snow conditions are still a problem. I am hoping that there will not be much added pressure on all the in-between trailheads. We will just have to wait and see how it plays out.

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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by markskor » Tue Oct 29, 2019 6:06 pm

Just wondering...
Up in TM, we see a lot of the PCT going off the "continuous S - N route" and doing Half Dome, seeing Yosemite Valley, and then hitching up (or taking YARTS) back to the Meadows to continue on north. From the sounds of this new rule, a new permit would then be required...yeah right! Just wondering who is going to police this new regulation... And how are they supposed to do this?

Another question too: What does a "resupply" stop actually mean...1 day, 3 days, a week? How are rangers going to tell the real ones from those who might lie? Would a PCT ever lie?
Those going north and then flip-flopping, coming back and redoing a section going south - these may be easier to discern (if you happen to be stopped and a ranger asks to see your permit), but staying northbound, if you "yellow-lined", (took a bus or hitched), say from Bishop to Mammoth, (or Mammoth to TM), and then continued on north, who would know?

Finally, if you went off the PCT at Seavey Pass, and hiked into Bridgeport and then hitched up to Sonora Pass, is this legal as you are now out of the Southern Sierra restricted area, or is a new permit required? A lot of questions and very little manpower.
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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by maverick » Tue Oct 29, 2019 6:38 pm

From the sounds of this new rule, a new permit would then be required...yeah right! Just wondering who is going to police this new regulation...
:nod:
Add this to a list of rules and regulations that aren't, or should I rephrase as can't/won't be enforced. :\
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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by wildhiker » Tue Oct 29, 2019 10:10 pm

The complete rules for the long-distance PCT permits are at
https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail ... ce-permit/

They answer a lot of the questions posed above. But the rub is always enforcement. As in all areas of society where the law is trying to lay out codes of behavior (think traffic laws, for example), the expectation is that the vast majority of people will voluntarily comply with the law. Enforcement is generally either complaint-based or random, just to get potential cheaters to think twice, because they might get caught. The whole wilderness permit system really depends on voluntary compliance, because we certainly don't have enough rangers to check every person's every move in the wilderness, nor would we want them to!

I must say, however, that there certainly is a much greater presence of wilderness rangers now in Yosemite Park than in previous years. From 1970 through 2018, backpacking every year in the Sierra, usually multiple trips, my wilderness permit was only checked perhaps 3 times total. But this summer in Yosemite, I encountered two rangers on the JMT who both wanted to see my permit - and bear canister! Both told me that the park has about 20 backcountry rangers now! So at least in Yosemite, there is a good chance that flagrant violation of your wilderness permit (or PCT permit) would get you in trouble.

-Phil

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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by rightstar76 » Wed Oct 30, 2019 3:51 am

Confusing messaging here.

Compare
https://thetrek.co/pacific-crest-trail/ ... el-sierra/
“You’re welcome to skip the Sierra...but you’ll need to get a local permit to come back and finish the section.”
to this:
https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail ... ce-permit/
The Southern Sierra zone runs from Kennedy Meadows South (Sherman Pass Road) northbound to Kennedy Meadows North (CA SR 108 Sonora Pass).

Once permit holders leave Kennedy Meadows South, they must travel through the Southern Sierra (between Kennedy Meadows South and Sonora Pass) in no more than 35 days.

Travel in the Southern Sierra must be continuous with no skips or changes in direction. If permit holders exit the Southern Sierra to do more than resupply or wish to re-enter at a different trailhead they must obtain a new permit from the local land management agency.
Wonder which one it is.

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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by balzaccom » Wed Oct 30, 2019 5:48 am

All this just means that a PCT permit is not an unlimited permit to hike the Sierra for the rest of the year. If you are going to do that, you need to register and get a permit for it. PCT permits are only for serious through-hikers. Makes sense to me...especially given the traffic on the JMT in places.
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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by MountainMinstrel » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:42 pm

It seems to me that if NOBO and you left the trail at Kennedy Meadows South and did not rejoin until Sonora Peak that this would not apply.
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Re: Changes to PCT permit rules affect Sierra hiking

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Oct 30, 2019 2:11 pm

I read it that you have 35 days to get through the "regulated zone-"south Sierra", going either north or south, and you have to travel contiguously, out for resupply only, AND re-enter from the same trailhead. This means your original PCT permit is for continuous one-way travel between Kennedy Meadows south and Sonora Pass. I assume you could then use your original PCT permit continuing north or south, once out of the regulated zone.

When they say "leave" Kennedy Meadows South, I think they mean either continue walking north, on the PCT OR taking a longer break. So your 35 days start ticking regardless if you continue walking the PCT, or take a break. So if you bump north and come back to Kennedy Meadows south, as long as you can get to Sonora Pass 35 days after you bounced, then the original PCT permit applies?? Otherwise you need a new permit. 35 days to get through the "south Sierra" section is quite a bit of time to make the distance. This would cover a week or so to wait for conditions to improve, but not allow for skipping the south Sierra and finishing it at the end of summer without getting a new permit? This is a bit confusing.

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