Friday, December 16, 2005

Mountain Access 101

A front page story in The Gazette today outlined a statutory end game for the struggle between hikers and private land owners on the state's fourteeners. Apparently, Gov. Owens is going to propose "some legal immunity" against personal injury lawsuits for landowners who grant hikers access across their land. And you can be sure that if it's properly written, it will pass. As one of our city editors said, "this is ma and apple pie stuff. No one can vote against it."

But what exactly is going on? Why are some fourteeners closed and others open? Aren't they all on National Forest land? For a complete examination, check out the story I did this summer on why property owners barred access to the peaks, and why hikers climb anyway.

Or, for a quick primer, let's do the numbers:

Of the 54 official fourteeners in Colorado, six have curtailed public access: Mount Lincoln, Mount Democrat, Mount Bross, Mount Sherman, Mount Wilson and Culebra Peak.

One of them, Culebra, is on an old Spanish land grant. People can currently make reservations to climb it for $300 a person.

One, Sherman, is owned entirely by the Leadville Lead Co. Though it is private property, hikers are welcome.

Three: Mount Lincoln, Mount Democrat, and Mount Bross, are posted "no trespassing," though thousands of people have climbed the mountains since the signs went up and the authorities have made no move to stop them.

And one peak, Wilson, has private mining claims on a few sides, but still has clear routes to the top.

So, despite a lot of talk about six fourteeners being "off limits," all can still be climbed in one way or another.

The big news of this bill, if it passes, will be all the smaller trail access issues in the state that it has the potential to solve. After all, access isn't just a fourteener thing, and private land and in-holdings are more common lower down.
In the Pikes Peak region, we have a number of trails that are, to say the least, problematic. The best example is the Schubarth Trail in Monument. The last mile of this classic mountain bike trail runs past the house of an unsympathetic property owner. Consequently, riders have to take a five-mile detour if they want to ride in the area. Other trails include the Intemann Trail, which still has an unofficial section crossing private land, and the Williams Canyon Trail, which starts on Cave of the Winds property and attracts trespassers by the dozen.
If Owens can solve some of those sticky situations, then I say, give me some ma and apple pie.



Fritz said...

Right on. Ma and apple pie indeed.

I thought I read a story in the Denver Post last summer about one of the 14er property owners actually patrolling his property. I can't remember which mountain, but I seem to remember it being somewhere in the Sangre de Cristo.

Bill Brown said...

If you go to Cave of the Winds ticket counter and sign one of their liabiliby waiver forms, it effectively gives you permission to hike Williams Canyon in exchange for innoculating them against your lawsuit. It's well worth it for a great hike!