National Park

Bear fishing cam on Brooks Falls

My friend Dave Koerber sent me this link and I’ve seen various “cams” before (eagles, bears, cams on trees in the woods) but watching these brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska is one of the best screen saver/zone outs I’ve found yet.

Various people have access to the cams and move them around from time to time which is also interesting.

Yosemite National Park bans drones

No Drone for You! National Park Service Bans Camera Drone Usage in Yosemite

Petapixel and now others are posting about this and its definitely worth considering. I posted a comment on Petapixel this morning and I’ll repost it here.

Here’s the National Park Service notice: Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Prohibited in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Falls

Image of Yosemite Falls and Point by flickr member ScottD75.

Over 30 years ago I spent summers climbing in Yosemite Valley. If you look at the image used in this post, you see Yosemite Falls and at the far right on that ridge is Yosemite Point. Just to the left of the point you can just make out a small pinnacle detached from the cliff which is called The Lost Arrow Spire.

When my then girlfriend and I climbed the Lost Arrow Spire what we didn’t consider was its proximity to the most populated spot in the valley: Yosemite Village. I happened to be wearing a red shirt when I lead this climb and when I topped out every car horn in the valley went off; I had no clue so many people were following us with binoculars and the sound about knocked me off the top (yes, I was tied in but I didn’t expect it, guess it was a tradition I didn’t know about).

I’m pretty sure that had there been drones around in those days someone might have decided to get a closer look at us with one. Three things to consider:

1. Had the drone gotten too close and knocked me off the A-4 pitch (back then) in the middle of this climb, it might have caused a serious problem.

2. The falls wasn’t running when we did the climb so all we could hear (before the car horns went off) was a bit of wind. I’m not sure I’d have appreciated a drone hovering nearby, even with a quiet electrical hum. If it got in the way of our leader-belayer signals I’d have been unhappy about it and it was tough to hear each other on the very extended last pitch.

3. We did take some pictures on the climb but I’d have paid a lot of money to the drone pilot/photographer for that video had it turned out well, or even if it was mediocre. (I’m having those slides scanned right now. Stay tuned for a post with them.)

One of my favorite movies on climbing in Yosemite back in the day, El Capitan, has been digitally remastered and is available on Amazon (I posted about it here). When it was made, over a single summer, the climber/filmmaker Glen Denny did the climb with the three climbers but also got footage from a helicopter. All of that is cut together by Fred Padula. The film is dated but it remains one of the finest accounts of an early climb of the Nose Route on one of the greatest granite cliffs on earth.

Bottom line: had Padula and Denny had drones, there is no doubt in my mind that they would have used them and it would have made the film better. That said, the Park service would have (correctly) warned other climbing parties on El Cap about the drones.

Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble

The national parks’ history is full of examples of misguided visitors feeding bears, putting children on buffalos for photos and dipping into geysers despite signs warning of scalding temperatures.

But today, as an ever more wired and interconnected public visits the parks in rising numbers — July was a record month for visitors at Yellowstone — rangers say that technology often figures into such mishaps.

People with cellphones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate.

I used to subscribe to and read Accidents in North American Mountaineering which in places was just as humorous as this article. Add technology to the mix and you have even more brazen people going into the wilderness thinking cell service is everywhere and that they can call for a ranger for any reason.

This story overlaps with kids (escorted by adults) climbing Mt. Everest or sailing around the world (unescorted).

I have no problem with people going off into the wilderness and doing challenging things; I have serious problems with a small number of those people who are unprepared and assume they can be rescued if they get into trouble. It costs thousands of dollars an hour to fly a helicopter with a rescue team to a remote area to do a rescue and in this country few hikers, climbers, or sailors pay for this. They should, or, if they’re 14 their parents should.

We need insurance companies to offer policies that will pay for expensive rescues and then, in order to climb Grand Teton a group needs to have such a policy and sign a waver saying they will not ask for a rescue if one of them gets a blister. Insurance will help pay for rescues but unfortunately it might also give people a false sense of protection.

We all have to start somewhere and the first time I went camping I took a space blanket and a few candy bars. After one uncomfortable night in Lassen Park we walked out and took the bus home with our tails between our legs. Had cell phones been around then I doubt we’d have used one to call for help.

When I go out on a 7 mile day hike in summer (like two days ago) I carry enough gear to spend the night in the woods if I have to: flashlight/headlamp, extra clothing and a raincoat, extra food and water and a first aid kit. Yes, I do carry an iPhone although coverage is spotty in the places we hike. My candy bars (Clif bars) are better too.