Napequa crowds

WA Cascades East Slopes Central
Posted by mikerolfs on 3/16/21 2:56pm

Jtack and I queued up Friday for a Saturday ski of what we thought was still a somewhat obscure and remote line on Chiwawa Ridge about 6 miles up the Napequa River. Anthony and Alex were to meet us to start marching at 3:45am on Saturday. On Friday afternoon, Jtack and I scouted the trail that avoids the "no trespassing" private property near the White River/Napequa confluence. The trail was obvious, and we left a pair of skis about a mile from the trailhead just to make the early walk that much more pleasant. There was a car in the lot that looked suspiciously like a skier's car. We discussed the possibility that maybe this car represented a party ahead of us, possibly sleeping at the base of our intended ski. Our 3am wake-up at Tall Timbers was interrupted when a party of three pulled in, (very nice people) who were on a similar departure schedule as us, and headed to the same location. A few minutes later, while walking to the trailhead, we met yet another party of two just locking up their cars and headed to the same destination.

As we walked up the trail, time-wise slightly behind these two parties, we talked about confined terrain with groups above and below. There would be at least 5 and maybe more people (in addition to our 4) in this long narrow slot. We decided that this isn't the kind of line you share with multiple groups, and we pulled the plug a little before 5am when we picked up Jamie's skis from the trail above the private area.

I learned something from this experience, which is that the Napequa is not as secluded as I thought. I'm sure this warrants a discussion about the affect of trip reports and increased visitation to more remote spots. This "crowding" in the backcountry is why I haven't been posting trip reports from my usual haunts. It is too crowded as is, and any mention on-line makes it worse. Its a conundrum that has me bouncing between wanting to share, and wanting to destroy the internet.

Also, I don't think we saw any footprints in front of ours on the trail. This suggests the possibility that skier parties ahead of us may have trespassed through the easier access private property. Maybe there was permission, I don't know. I guess I'm an advocate of protecting our collective reputation by observing "no trespass" signs.

Here we are returning to the car after deciding the trip was too crowded for safety:


On the bright side, we had a nice ski to the end of the White River Road and saw cougar tracks and some pretty amazing avalanche debris over the road.

First of all kudos to you for making a challenging decision with respect to your own safety margins early in the morning. I'm sure it wasn't a happy experience to drive out there and sleep over only to pull the plug without even skinning out to the line.

I guess I am a little surprised that you would describe this line as obscure, when most people that I ski with have been talking about trying to ski it for some time. Remote and committed, but not obscure at all. Given that someone posted a report and gpx track to the TAY Facebook group from Thursday the 11th, if I were in your shoes I wouldn't have driven out to ski that line on a weekend expecting to be there out alone.

I think the points on trespassing on private property are important for the community to hear, but based on the strava track it looks like the first party to ski this accessed the line through public lands and I assume others out there the day after would be trying to follow their track: 

Would you be willing to clarify on what the easier access but private property route you think people may have been following was? I take it that there were obvious no trespassing signs on the property? I think the cat is clearly out of the bag on this one, and rather than complaining about trip reports posted a day before perhaps you could help people access this highly sought after line without trespassing?

Its a tough one Mike. Id love to blow the internet up with you and take me back ten years to the cascades of my youth but those days are loooong gone.  I hate how busy everything is but its just a fact these days. The good news is that 98% of these newer folks dont have the skills to asses when a mountain will be prime for skiing, they rely on facebook and instagram to know when they can go ski and Jaime have lifetimes worth of mountain knowledge to get the jump on everyone else!  Youll get em next time!

When I skied this three years ago, we were the only party on it that day, but when we got to the bottom no less than just shy of a dozen people were making camps for attempts the next day. Good call turning around. 

No, they definitely didn't ask permission. They were entitled and walked across private property to the "sick" line they read about on the internet (as I guarantee you they never would have found it on their own just being creative and browsing topos). Yeah, it sucks man, i feel ya. That area was deserted 10+ years ago but, yup...the internet. That and BC skiing becoming trendy.

Advice to any others who will listen to a curmudgeon like me: sharing your sweet trip is best done with friends, in person, over a beer (and six feet apart currently :P) I regret ever sharing stuff online. We all did this to ourselves and it's sad. What's more sad is it cannot be undone.

Oversaturation of information isn't a great thing, nor is making things more "accessible" for anybody with a web browser. I feel bad for the new generation of $100k van driving BC "dirtbags" that never had the joy of scouring over old topo maps for hours an then just going for it. Make things a little bit more difficult and you won't discourage people that really love to do it. It might, however, discourage the large % of folks that just want to post crap on their instagram, and that would be fine.

The route you are presumably referring to is published in a guidebook that's been out since 2014, and that is owned by virtually every backcountry skier in Washington. If you don't want to share the mountain with other people I'd suggest choosing a route that is not in the guidebook. In the Napeequa Valley alone there are multiple other lines you could have skied where you would have been guaranteed to not see another person all day.

And the guidebook in question published that route after it was posted on...yup, the internet.

Even skiing another route in the valley, they would have come across the huge gaggle of people forming the congo line to get in the route of question. If you are somebody that enjoys a modicum of solitutude, that still sucks.

It bewilders me how much people will defend against the clear fact that internet route sharing has made for crowding in many areas where there otherwise wouldn't have been many people. Is it so bad to admit that there have been negative side effects? I do understand people's desire to seek recognition of their accomplishments from largely anonymous people online, it's only human nature.

This reminds me of the bruhaha after somebody posted a TR from Ruby Mountain years ago. Defenders claimed "oh it's accessible anyhow, it was no secret". As somebody that has done that route a bunch of times prior to and after that posting I can say with no uncertainty "the TAY effect" turned it from a place where you'd only occasionally see another person to a place where by default you'll usually see multiple groups. I understand some people love the info and don't see it as a bad thing, but not all of us share that opinion.  

At its core, this forum seems to contain the largest collection of high-quality backcountry skiing trip reports for the PNW, and serves as a platform for the creation of new TRs. I enjoy scrolling through TRs from Hummel, Sky, and others from 10 or 15 years ago. It is inspirational to say the least.

I am trying to understand where folks like you, who have been around longer than me, are coming from. If you search "crowds" on this forum, you get consistent results since 2002. Another example, I was reading about Cascade Backcountry Ski Patrol, and how it was formed in the 70's in response to increased crowding in the backcountry.

To me and many of my peers, it seems like you are just mad about whatever current space is seeing increased visitation. Which, seems kinda silly to me. What if people are just continuing to realize that skiing is the best, as you and your friends realized many years ago? Are you just generally against trip reports in forums, guidebooks, etc.? Or do you believe that Gen Z or Millennials just generally suck? Or something else?

Part of me understands where you mikerolfs coming from but most of me doesn't.  There have been many to ski these mountains before us and many who will ski them after us.  The population is growing.  There is no use getting upset about it.  Mikerolfs has probably posted trip reports on this website so that contributes to this problem.  I guess next time just withhold the location when writing a trip report.


He's probably not the only one that realizes their past posting has been part of the problem. I'm in that camp. I wish we had foreseen what would happen. In the time period you highlight, it was a much much smaller community and viewership. Indeed massive population growth is the real issue, but the tipping point i would really point to was the social media explosion. It went from websites with increasing visitation to mass spread.

Gen Z and millenials are not the issue (hey, I'm married to one). Every generation starts young and grows older, that's just how it works. But i would again point out is perfectly reasonable for folks to bemoan the current state of things and wish it had turned out differently. To deny somebody's real world experience of "there are way more people doing this and it sucks" is silly if they feel that way. Nobody said others don't have the right to feel differently. Clearly the scope of "overcrowding" bemoaned in the 70s, 80s, 90s and even the aughts was a fraction of what it is now. I just can't wrap my head around people denying what TR sharing on the internet and social media has done. Whether or not that's a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion, but the cause and effect is pretty much a fact. 

It looks to me like viewership is down on this forum, not up.

What do you all think caused the "overcrowding" in the 70's, or the 00's? Is that cause better or worse than one of our current causes, the Internet? I am legitimately curious. 

I think the moment we are in now is less unique than we believe. I imagine that the Swiss have been having this same conversation about their own mountains for hundreds of years.



I'm sure the Swiss have. :)

Word of mouth in the previous generations would be my guess. The internet just kicked up the spread a few orders of magnitude. My guess is viewership here is down as the spread on FB and IG has largely taken over and multiplied it once more.

I agree with you, not a unique phenomenon but hard to argue the internet didn't usher in a drastically quicker method of spread.

On a tangent, I'd imagine the advent of better and better gear that makes the bar to entry lower and the experience easier for many has helped, though everybody has benefited from those applications of technology and materials science.

Ubiquitous GPS and amazing mapping software helps too. I'd seriously doubt more than 5% of the current internet generation could navigate the mountains without this. Concurrently, it ups the success rate as getting your bearing or map reading wrong and wandering around before giving up and heading home is likely less common. Again, no complaints here about that technology.

Too bad we can't pick and choose what technology spreads... 

In contrast to TAY, social media lets me have a private account where most (not all) people who see my posts are actual friends who I hang out with in real life from time-to-time. So I think that making a post there causes less of a TAY effect than making a post here. Although some of those "friends" are pretty hardcore frothers that are gobbling up every bit of information they can find.

I definitely think before posting to this forum. I don't want my favorite spots to become more overrun. Still, it's fun to share especially the more creative and obscure things. I also don't want to encourage extreme skiing, because I think a lot of people are trying it that don't have good enough ski skills.

At the same time, I love the archive of knowledge and current conditions info that TAY provides.

Long live TAY.

Lets kick everyone off TAY that was born after 85' and they can all have the facekook and instafame and let us old farts complain about the good ol days in peace! 

As someone who was born after '85, I've been a huge fan of TAY since I moved here. I was lucky to have some of you 'old farts' show me around when I first moved here, and I agree that it is an amazing resource if you're willing to spend the time and do your research. From what I can tell speaking to my other millennial friends, most of them use TAY on facebook, not this site. But as anyone can tell you, TAY sticks to trip reports and trip research while facebook...not so much. For the most part I think the self-selecting nature of that means that if you publish a TR here, you expect that your community uses and respects the information and how it's distributed. 

This has been a discussion for as long as I have followed tay. My belief is it doesn’t matter what you post or don’t post, google earth and aerial photos reveal most lines for those who care to look. Unless you brap, we aren’t getting any greater access to the mountains, people have been skiing from the same trailheads for as long as the highway passes have existed. Better to be supportive of a larger community that advocates for greater access (e.g. x-country, brapmobiles, bikers, basically every other outdoors community but us?) then encouraging everyone to hide in their own bubble. If you want to have the mountain to yourself better learn how to traverse (or move to northern bc), cause the more junior members of our community are coming for your fave trailhead whether you post about it or not.

OK, I'll add to the comment fest : ) Chatting with Mike about this and many other things in the past, I'm going to go on a limb to say he posed it as more of a rhetorical juxtaposition than a true question to be answered. Many of us struggle with this topic, and, let's be honest, it will never get a resolution as life goes on, and things evolve with or without us.

The value of the TAY site is the longevity of the content, and, I hope, the quality, too, compared to other online options. One can research years worth of information from a particular area they wish to visit. For that, I hope folks will continue posting TR's.

One of the original ideas that fueled the creation of this site was sharing beta to increase the safety in the backcountry. I know of people who posted an approximate location, slope aspect, elevation and the conditions they found. Thus, they didn't reveal their secret stash, but still contributed to the greater good. I'm sharing this if it helps someone decide whether to post or not.

Had a similar experience 3 years ago on this line. We bailed due to instability. It's especially tricky in that the windows for it are narrow most years. 

FB TAY seems to be a problem. I would guess these forums see 1/10th or less of the traffic the FB group does. 

I would encourage anyone to think twice about posting TRs of committing lines that are infrequently skied on the FB group. Having to do old school research often separates the prepared from the unprepared. 

Also, the misogyny of the FB group is horrific. I couldn't take another post telling a young woman to GO GET YOUR AVY 1 w/o even considering her question. 

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2021-03-16 21:56:23