I predict this thread will go far... unfortunately.
I’ld ask we try to stay civil and not spread rumors (this rope had nothing to do with the AMC).
Before sharing my opinion let me paint the picture for those of you not familiar with Winter Lion’s Head Route on Mt. Washington.
Both the AMC White Mountain Guidebook and the USFS describe this route as “a steep mountaineering route requiring the use of crampons and ice axe and the knowledge of how to use them”. This description unfortunately, is not respected by a large portion of non-guided groups on Mt. Washington. While I believe in the essence behind the “Freedom of the Hills”, that which everyone has a right to go into the mountains and learn from good & bad experiences yada yada... this particular section of the LHWR is a shit show almost every weekend of the winter.
This section, jokingly called the “Hillary Step” by regulars is only 30 feet in length, is 4th class in nature, and leaves little option for passing parties up or down without halting their progress.
10 years ago guides may short rope a client or two through this section... more recently it’s become common to install a hand line during the ascent that the party can use. This might be because guide services have increased their client/guide ratios for these trips and the fastest way to get 5:1 through that step is a quick hand line. I’ve always cleaned it after the last person in my party, and carried it to the summit, re-installing it on the descent (and maybe teaching an arm wrap rappel on descent).
This season, and perhaps a bit of last season, some guides have left the hand line up for the day. This, IMO, is the reason for conflict. The main argument for it being a “day-fixed” rope is this;
This route sees so much beginner traffic that this bottleneck can add an hour to your descent. This is a common experience for me... I crest Lion’s Head on the descent, still half a mile from tree-line. Sweet, no one in sight, should be a great descent. 20 minutes later enter tree-line. 10 minutes later find people sitting on packs or leaning on trees as 40+ people try to move through this 30 foot 4th class section...
That is the argument. Let me be clear of what side I’m on. I don’t like “day-fixed” ropes for a few reasons;
1) It does detract from the skilled minority of climbers who can waltz through this section in micro-spikes while chewing gum and twiddling their thumbs...
2) It’s quick enough to clean it during ascent/descent
3) Might need that rope higher up (or end up going down another way)
Even though I am against a fixed rope there, I think given the traffic this trail sees there needs to be a better solution. I’m not sure what that is. Not having the rope there will not keep neophytes from crawling there way up there, whether properly equipped or not. I always look forward to the Spring so I can sometimes use Lobster Claw gully as an alternate descent with clients on busy days...
It’s only 30 feet... I actually think a wooden ladder like the one on Summer Lions Head Trail would solve the issue...
And quick question for DaveR, ELM, and JBrochu: You all made anti-step cutting comments on trails, I was curious how you felt about the massive trail work at Rumney to facilitate travel?