The photo above is something that caused a bit of a stir in the mountain community in Colorado. You can see what it shows: A group of guys on the summit of Grays Peak, hitting golf balls from the top.
Grays Peak is one of those heavily trafficked mountains that’s close to Denver, with easy access from Interstate 70. It’s also a straightforward hike to the top, so as you can imagine it attracts a lot of attention from people looking for an altitude fix. Much moreso than, say, the more demanding peaks deeper in the mountains.
I’ve got a problem with this. For starters, you don’t know if your tee shot if going to hit someone below (there is more than one trail to the top of Grays). But the real sin is that I’m sure these douchenozzles made no effort to retrieve their golf balls. Like I said, Grays Peak is a busy place in the summer. But guess what? It’s also a wild place. To whatever degree you follow Leave No Trace principles, I think we can all agree that what happened here was nothing more than frat boy littering.
(Disclosure: I didn’t take this picture.)
It got me to thinking of some other things noobs need to refrain from when out in wilderness areas…
1. Don’t crap or piss on the trail or on a route. Trust me, you can hold it long enough to get well off trail, even in above-treeline areas. No one wants to step on your defecation or grab a wet handhold courtesy of your bowels.
2. Don’t feed the wildlife. And don’t mess with wildlife, either. Yes, a marmot will eat out of your hand. So will the occasional pika. But animals should not be conditioned to see humans as food sources. Besides, the food we eat is not healthy for them. And for cryin’ out loud, don’t be an idiot by chasing wildlife around, or otherwise doing harm. Some dude kicked a squirrel off the Grand Canyon rim last week, an action I cannot fathom.
3. Take your dog, but take care of your dog. Keep your pooch under control (especially around people, other dogs and wildlife), don’t let it crap on the route/trail (and clean up after it if it does), and be cognizant of your dog’s abilities and stamina. Most dogs can’t handle rough, bouldery routes, and almost none can manage Class 3 climbing and up. Feed, water and monitor your dog. Don’t get your pet injured or killed.
4. Haul out your trash. Period. Don’t leave it, bury it, throw it in a creek or lake or burn it. Just bring a plastic sack and haul out your garbage. I’m stunned by how few people get this, especially when it comes to things like food wrappers and summit signs.
5. Have a good time, but make sure your party doesn’t ruin other people’s day. I’ve seen and heard of some wild stunts people do in the mountains, all in the name of fun. I’m all for that. Hot tub on a peak? Sure. Kegger on the summit? It happens. Grill a burger, have a sing-along, pitch a tent — all of these things and more happen on high mountain summits, and it’s cool as long as you don’t ruin the moment for everyone else. Be cool about it, be done with it, and then leave that peak in as good or better condition than when you found it. Have fun, but be mindful of others.
And for that matter, don’t hit golf balls off a summit. Be better than that.
Got a few don’ts of your own? List ’em in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.