Gummint regs

Sometimes the anti-government people actually have a good point – regulations can be stupid and costly. And sometimes the anti-PC people have a point – political correctness can go too far. And sometimes there is a really good example that shows what happens when the two meet.

The Appalachian Mountain Club maintains a string of eight “high huts” in the White Mountains, each about a day’s hike from the next, that enables you to  complete a trek across this most spectacular 56-mile length of the 2190 miles of the Appalachian Trail without going below tree line.

In 1999, the AMC wanted to rebuild its Galehead Hut, which can accommodate 38 people overnight. The hut is 3800 above sea level, and four and a half fairly difficult trail miles from the road.

Because the AMC leases the land for the huts from the U.S. Forest Service, their renovations would have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They had to provide a wheelchair ramp into the hut to comply. This and other requirements would increase the cost of the project by about $50,000, and everyone knows the AMC does not have very deep pockets.

But is it really necessary to build a wheelchair ramp to a hut that has never been visited by anyone in a wheelchair? Can’t we get an exception in this case? Yes, they were told, it’s necessary, and no, no exceptions. So, despite the loud murmur of disapproval from the fairly reasonable among us, the club went ahead and built the wheelchair ramp, which is prominently featured in the above picture.

To make the point that people confined to wheelchairs could do anything that other people could do, a wheelchair hike to Galehead was undertaken in 2000, after a year of planning. Teams of friends worked together to try to get the wheelchair hikers to the hut. There were three people in wheelchairs, two on crutches and a support team of twenty.

Some details from the above link:

Simple wooden planks proved useful in crossing broken-up sections of the trail, but a rope pulley system failed to live up to expectations. Sometimes pure grit and muscle from the entire team were still needed to power through some of the trail’s steeper sections like Jacob’s Ladder, a challenging bit of trail with large boulders and slick facing rocks two-thirds of the way up.

At one point, Gray abandoned his chair, literally hopped onto the trail and climbed the mountain backwards — using his arms, shoulders and hands to push up each stone step, while a teammate held his legs in a fabric sling.

Twelve hours later — some eight and a half hours more than it takes most able-bodied climbers — Krill and his crew arrived at the Galehead hut in the glow of the setting sun, followed by Murray, Gray, Haley and Marzouk. Cruising up the ramp, the group headed inside for Philly cheese steaks and champagne. After a day of resting sore muscles and repairing equipment, the group would head back down with the same grit and grace they exhibited on the ascent.

Here’s another account of the effort. The New York Times also published an excellent piece about the whole thing.

The “hikers” and their support teams claimed that the exercise was a great success and validated the government requirements and the cost to the AMC to build the ramp.

In fact, it proved the opposite. People confined to wheelchairs cannot climb mountains. Obviously.

Yes, if you plan for a year and get twenty people to carry you up the trail and deposit you at the doorstep of the hut, the group has succeeded at something difficult. So what? And the whole thing begs this question: if your team can carry you for 12 hours up a difficult trail, can they not also hoist you up the last 18″ onto the porch of the hut without needing a $50,000 ramp?

The NYT piece ends with this question:

Would the hut’s ramp ever really be used again? Would they ever, really, want to do this again, after all the almost-tipping and rib-bruising and grueling labor? Sure, said Mr. Krill, 29. ”Next time I can get enough people to do it with me.”





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