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Date Posted: 06:24:39 10/22/04 Fri
Author: E. Schlimmer
Subject: The Path More Followed.
In reply to: Nate 's message, "Trailless Peak Paths" on 00:02:04 10/21/04 Thu

Hello Nate. You sound like you would make a good Trail Crew Member. Let me go thru your questions.

"Do you foresee a time when all (or at least most) of the currently trailless peaks on the Hundred Highest list will have similar unofficial paths to their summits?"

Yes, Big Jay and Nancy do have trails as does "Nubble Peak." The Big Jay one is around not only for hikers but for throngs of skiers who ski the south side of Big Jay. They reach this via the Big Jay/Jay Peak path. The Nancy one is in such good shape I can only assume it has been maintained. I remember clipped branches on that path when I was on it two years ago. The path to The Nubble was illegally cut but it is certainly legal to hike on. I don't know if the NE 100 will all have trails some day (see below). It depends on when a path starts to exist and how well worn that path becomes.

"This kind of begs the question of when is it
okay for a peak to have a trail and when is it not?
Why is it okay for paths to appear on the trailless
summits in the Adirondacks, but not when someone puts
in a trail on the Peak above the Nubble?"

Cutting a path up a peak is currently illegal and usually unethical. My logic behind it is, if you can't get up that hill because it doesn't have a trail then you have two choices. One, you just don't go up it. Or, you learn how to use a map and a compass and reach the top "playing by the rules" so to speak.
The life of a trailless peak becoming a trailled peak may go something like this often:

1. The peak has no trail to the top.
2. The peak becomes popular for some reason. Maybe it's put on a popular peakbagging list or it has a great view.
3. People start bushwhacking up it.
4. These people take about the same course up the mountain, therefore a path develops.
5. More people hike on this path and it starts to erode since it does not possess trail amenities such as switchbacks, rock steps, waterbars, etc.
6. The path becomes so eroded that something has to be done about it. If the degradation is caught early enough, the path can be "hardened" with the above trail features. If it's too late to give the path advanced life support then a new trail will be built elsewhere and that old path will be shut down.
It depends on who manages the land as to when a path is deemed to have "gone too far" and needs to be shut down. My prediction? Soon there will be serious talk as to when (not if) we should turn the Adirondack Forty-Sixer's paths into maintained trails. As for the New England 100 highest? I really don't know. I went up peaks like Vose Spur, Elephant, and Mendon, among others, and found no top-to-bottom path. These peaks can still be classified as "trailless" and are not in need of care.
You would probably love the Waterman's "Forest and Crag." That book describes quite well how paths and trails are formed, improved, and then managed.

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