Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Road to Whitney 2.5: Permit Update

I just wanted to post a quick update on the knife fight that has been the 2014 Mt. Whitney permit lottery. To say that there has been some issues is putting it mildly. This is the first year that the lottery has been run completely by Recreation.gov and it has been frustrating to all involved.

As of the close of the lottery on March 15, there were 8,744 applications submitted in total. While they do not release that actual number of participants looking for permits, the most sought after date, August 1st had nearly 800 people vying for the 160 quota slots (100 day-use and 60 overnight).

The problems really began when the lottery itself was run; it appears that the system only ran through the applications once and so only filled about 65% of the total slots. Some dates had nearly 50 open slots after the lottery had run its course. Normally, the lottery will continue to run until all available slots are filled. Once people decide which dates they want to keep, the remainder of dates are released to be claimed by anyone.

An additional hiccup reported by many people was that if they were listed as an alternate trip leader for another application that was selected, all other applications by that person were immediately cancelled and not subject to the lottery. This led many people to miss out on permits that they might otherwise have gotten.

What this led to was a mad rush today (April 1st as I write this) to obtain the remaining permits. It took about an hour for the website to even allow booking of permits, at which point Inyo Forest service elected to take back control of the lottery process in large part I'm sure because of all the complaints they were getting.

Fortunately, I was able to get the permits and camping reservations for my trips after sitting in the registration cue nervously. Sadly, many were not as lucky and it seems likely that the lottery process will see some scrutiny from the Forest Service before next year. Of course, you can hardly expect the process to be perfect the first year of a transition, and hopefully the Inyo Forest Service and Recreation.gov make changes for the better.

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