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Cairns and Registers

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Cairns and Registers

Postby Bob Sihler » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:29 pm

What do you all think about them? Like 'em, hate 'em, don't really care?

I found out this morning that a few days after I climbed a fairly obscure Wyoming peak this summer, someone went up and placed a register. It's not my mountain, but it bugged me all the same. I like peaks without registers, and I love peaks without cairns or registers. Why do we need to leave signs of ourselves behind? Why can't we leave mountains without cairns and registers the way they are? One of the big reasons I climb mountains is to get away from people and evidence of them, not to find reminders of them.

I can see making a cairn to mark the highpoint of a broad, flat summit, but why else?

Those of you who disagree with me-- please tell what it is you like about these things. I'm curious, not looking for a big argument.
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Postby mconnell » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:48 pm

I agree with Bob. Registers don't bother me a lot since I don't usually look for them. I think that cairns could serve a useful purpose if they weren't built by idiots. On a training hike near here, I once tore down 100 cairns in a little over a mile. ON A DEVELOPED TRAIL. Some were in the middle of the trail, some were 10 feet off the trail, none of them served any purpose.

I can see using them to mark a hard to find path, but I almost never see them used that way and they are wrong as often as not.
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Postby cp0915 » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:51 pm

I dig finding registers and small cairns on top. I'll usually build a summit cairn if one isn't already there. I don't leave registers.

Why? Something intuitive, elemental about cairns. Registers are just fun -- history being recorded.
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Postby graham » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:54 pm

Bob Sihler wrote:…. Why do we need to leave signs of ourselves behind?.....
As your avatar foto suggests, we (humans) are wired that way.

Regarding registers and cairns vs. pristine summits; I don’t mind registers as long as they’re tidy and not some trash can or business card deposit looking for some free lunch. :roll:
I do enjoy looking thru registers, reading entries, and spotting folks that I know.
Some cairns are pretty impressive, like this rock stack in front of the Palisades 8)
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Postby Ejnar Fjerdingstad » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:00 pm

In the Alps most mountains of any significance have a summit cross. This may be very large, 3m/10 ft tall, or quite small on a minor peak, but it will generally be there. If there isn't a cross, there will be a cairn, often very large. In Italy the crosses are put up by a "Society for Putting up Summit Crosses", which seems to be very active.

In general I find summit crosses very useful, they clearly indicate the highest point even if seen from quite a distance, and the sturdier ones are very good for supporting a camera on when using a long zoom. We even once climbed a mountain in Auvergne (the Griou) where we might have been blown away by a very strong wind, if we hadn't clung to the summit cross!
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Postby Muddeer » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:03 pm

I hate summit registers, or whatever TRASH left on mountains. Never signed one and never will. I also despise those crosses, prayer flags, and other TRASH on summits. If they mean something to you, fine, take them up to the summit and pray/remember/honor whatever. BUt they don't mean shit to other people who will be there after you: THEY ARE FUCKIN" TRASH! So bring it back down with you and leave the mountain as you found it.
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Postby rpc » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:06 pm

I love summit registers. Esp. on obscure summits. Stuff like top of Whitney etc..., I could care less though.
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Postby cp0915 » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:11 pm

rpc wrote:I love summit registers. Esp. on obscure summits. Stuff like top of Whitney etc..., I could care less though.


Bingo.

There's nothing like reaching the summit of an obscure peak and finding some rotten, old register that hasn't been signed in years, filled with ladybugs. Places like Whitney, Rainier --- never even cracked open their boxes.
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Postby Sarah Simon » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:25 pm

I'm generally a "don't a leave a blaring trace" type, but confess I really enjoy a solo hike to some obscure Park/El Paso county summit with limited views at the top, and cracking open a register with just the same handful of Usual Suspects signed in.

Sitting up there alone, hearing nothing but the wind blowing through the pine bows, it's neat to know some kindered soul did the same thing.

I have a hard time being offended by an old Knots Berry Farm jelly jar containing a golf pencil and a mini note-pad with 5 signatures in it.

But, yeah, I found the "wedding registry" at the summit Mt. Whitney a little -- oh, just, strange.
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Postby Bob Sihler » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:31 pm

mconnell wrote:I agree with Bob. Registers don't bother me a lot since I don't usually look for them. I think that cairns could serve a useful purpose if they weren't built by idiots. On a training hike near here, I once tore down 100 cairns in a little over a mile. ON A DEVELOPED TRAIL. Some were in the middle of the trail, some were 10 feet off the trail, none of them served any purpose.

I can see using them to mark a hard to find path, but I almost never see them used that way and they are wrong as often as not.


Well, I did my part last week. I found some pointless cairns on and along the way to some really obscure peaks in Utah, and I scattered them.

cp0915 wrote:I dig finding registers and small cairns on top. I'll usually build a summit cairn if one isn't already there. I don't leave registers.

Why? Something intuitive, elemental about cairns. Registers are just fun -- history being recorded.


Despite what I said, I can see that. It was sort of cool to read the register on Coffin Peak in DV last year and see entries that seemed to be over 30 years old. But I'd rather have not found a register.

I used to sign registers. Sometimes still do-- I signed MoapaPk's replacement one on Red cap last year because I knew he'd put it up the day before; kind of wanted to say hey.

But I still prefer the summits without them.
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Postby MoapaPk » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:49 pm

sarah.simon wrote:
I have a hard time being offended by an old Knots Berry Farm jelly jar containing a golf pencil and a mini note-pad with 5 signatures in it.


Same here. I've known people who bristle at the thought of any tiny sign of humanity on the tops of mountains; but they will happily avail themselves of all the man-made way stations, roads, trails, and mule paths for the summit bid.

The cairn antipathy is often reasonable, as when there are multiple, ambiguous cairned routes. Around here, though, some routes are traveled just a few times a year, and the cairns may be very useful guides around nasty cliffs to hidden chutes. In some more-traveled areas, cairns help people stay on one route, rather than make multiple braided, erodible scars.

Some of the cairn antipathy is akin to territorial instincts; people may tear down cairns to erase any previous record of "ownership", just as dogs pee on other dog marks to obliterate the previous scent.
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Postby Muddeer » Tue Oct 20, 2009 6:16 pm

MoapaPk wrote:I've known people who bristle at the thought of any tiny sign of humanity on the tops of mountains; but they will happily avail themselves of all the man-made way stations, roads, trails, and mule paths for the summit bid.


Stations, roads, trails, and mule paths have practical uses. If you don't want to use them, you don't have to. And one can always take another route up. Seeing trash on a summit can't be avoided if you want to summit.

MoapaPk wrote:Some of the cairn antipathy is akin to territorial instincts; people may tear down cairns to erase any previous record of "ownership", just as dogs pee on other dog marks to obliterate the previous scent.


You can say the same thing, actually more appropriately, about people who leave their junk on the summit.
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