Park Service to hold open houses on Denali mountaineering fee

The National Park Service (NPS) is examining approaches to recover more of the cost of the mountaineering program in Denali National Park and Preserve. As part of the public involvement process, the NPS is holding two public open houses in January to provide information on the mountaineering program and how the special mountaineering use fee is utilized. The cities, dates, locations, and times of the open houses are:

Mountaineering at Denali National Park
Climbing in Denali National Park. (Photo: Brandon Latham/NPS)
  • Seattle, Wash.
    Monday, January 17,
    6-9 p.m.
    REI Flagship Store
    222 Yale Ave. N
  • Golden, Colo.
    Tuesday, January 18,
    6-9 p.m.
    American Mountaineering Center
    710 10th St.

At 7 p.m. Denali staff will give one 30-40 minute presentation on the mountaineering program and fee at each open house. Official public testimony will not be taken, but park staff will be available before and after the presentation to provide information and answer questions.

Currently each climber of Mt. McKinley or Mt. Foraker pays a cost recovery mountaineering use fee of $200. Income from this special use fee helps fund some of the cost of the mountaineering program, including preventative search and rescue (PSAR) education, training for rescue personnel, positioning of patrol/rescue personnel (including volunteers) at critical high altitude locations on the mountain, the CMC (human waste) program, and administrative support.

Since the cost recovery fee was implemented in 1995, the number of fatalities and major injuries has decreased significantly. This is directly attributable to the increased educational and PSAR efforts made possible through the cost recovery program.

When the special use fee was initially established it covered approximately 30 percent of the cost of this specialized program. Even though the fee was increased from $150 to $200 in 2005, current fee revenue only covers 17 percent of the cost.

McKinley and Foraker climbers make up less than half of one percent of the park's visitors, and in 2011 Denali will expend approximately $1,200 in direct support of each permitted climber. The average cost for all other visitors is expected to be about $37.

In recent years, the park has diverted funds from other critical park programs in order to fully fund the mountaineering program. This has negatively impacted funding available for interpretation, wildlife protection, resource management, and maintenance.

The NPS is seeking input and ideas regarding two key questions:

  1. Is the current mountaineering program the most cost effective, efficient, and safe program we can devise?
  2. How much of the cost should be recovered from users, and what options are there for how those costs can be distributed?

Comments from the public will be accepted through January 31, 2011. Comments may be submitted via email to: DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov or faxed to (907) 683-9612. They may also be sent to: Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755.

For additional information on the mountaineering program or the cost recovery special use fee visit the park website at www.nps.gov/dena.

If you have questions about the fee you may contact Chief Park Ranger Pete Armington at (907) 683-9521 or peter_armington@nps.gov

Additional Information (PDFs):

Filed under: Events

Comments

DrReaper
14 reviewer rep
318 forum posts
January 13, 2011 at 6:26 p.m. (EST)

$200 only covers 17% of the cost of the program! It sounds like they made a program that is unsustainable. Unless your running it on debt. Isn't that the problem with all government these days?

I am from the old school program. It works like this. You don't pay anything to go hiking, mountain climbing, ect.  You pack out your own trash and you take all the responsibility for your own fate.

Government is wasteful and totally unsustainable under the current debt based monetary system. The government can't keep you safe! It's impossible!

 

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
January 14, 2011 at 4:42 a.m. (EST)

$200 only covers 17% of the cost of the program! It sounds like they made a program that is unsustainable. Unless your running it on debt. Isn't that the problem with all government these days?

I am from the old school program. It works like this. You don't pay anything to go hiking, mountain climbing, ect.  You pack out your own trash and you take all the responsibility for your own fate.

Government is wasteful and totally unsustainable under the current debt based monetary system. The government can't keep you safe! It's impossible!

 

As long as you hike on public lands, someone is paying for the roads that lead to the trail head, the trail signs, and the trail construction/maintenance.  The only thing old school about not paying for any of this is the notion that you can get something for nothing.   Likewise I believe Denali mountaineers are freeloading to some big extent.  And this comment is coming from someone who attempted the mountain, twice, back in the day.  The problem with governmental debt is as much the result of everyone wanting something for nothing, as it is waste and fraud.  In any case even third world countries have pay to climb mountaineering programs, but their fees are considerably higher.  Only in the US do they provide access to the Stairway To Heaven for the price of a song.

As for the notion you pack out your own stuff: I laud your ethics, but unfortunately too many do not follow your example, let alone act in any manner remotely resembling LNT aesthetics.  So someone has to clean up after these clowns, and that someone probably wants to get paid…

Government may be wasteful, but it is just as true, private enterprise is selfish and exploitative if left to run their affairs unfettered.  We didn’t end up with Love Canal and all the other Superfund sites through acts of nature.  I am sure no one would think it would be such a bright idea having BP, Halliburton, or Goldman Sachs in charge of managing the parks, especially without oversight, which is not free either.

Ed

iClimb
121 reviewer rep
599 forum posts
January 14, 2011 at 11:54 a.m. (EST)

If the costs are not well covered by the fees they currently charge, then I say they need to increase the cost per climber.

Come on, people who climb Everest or other Himalayan peaks shell out 10 G's or more depending on how independently they climb. With a reputable guide service, they shell out closer to 60G's at times.

If it costs 1200 per climber to maintain the mountain and all of its services, then I say charge at LEAST $800 per climber to access the mountain. You have to pay for a permit in other countries when climbing mountains, why should it be different here?

If you don't like the fees, there are free mountains elsewhere in the country that can be quite challenging, which won't charge you for anything other than parking.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,067 forum posts
January 14, 2011 at 1:57 p.m. (EST)

iclimb- Can you explain what those cost's are so I can completely understand what they are and why? I have not undertaken Alpine climbing and would like to undrstnd more. I am a rock climber and Boulderer. But understand they need for access as long as the parks and climbers have guide lines which is what is happening currently with all climbing..new guidelines this year... My thought is the more you explain to me the more I can trully make a conclusion on the subject..

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,149 forum posts
January 14, 2011 at 2:27 p.m. (EST)

The article states that there are $1200 in direct cost per climber related solely to climbing the two mountains. I am very curious to know what the breakdown of that cost is as well.

iClimb
121 reviewer rep
599 forum posts
January 14, 2011 at 4:44 p.m. (EST)

denis it depends on which costs you are talking about - the article mentions what the 1200 per climber is in Denali park - it pays for park services of various kinds.

 

In terms of the costs for an expedition to Everest - if you are paying for a guide service, for example Himex, which is one of the best - you are paying for the land transportation once in Kathmandu, you are paying for food for 3 months, oxygen, sherpa's, other guides, and the salary of everyone on the Himex team who paves the road for you up Everest. The other thing that is probably forgotten about frequently is the permit you need to climb in the Himalaya. Himex is a company that is able to acquire this permit, and it is not cheap. Part of your cost to them is paying for this too.

 

Then you have to pay for your gear, which HAS to be top of the line so you don't die, you have to pay for plane tickets over seas, passports, other travel expenses, and on and on and on.

 

It ain't cheap.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,067 forum posts
January 14, 2011 at 5:15 p.m. (EST)

iclimb-thanks. I get what your saying it's a drop in the bucket of what the true cost of such sevice's are..Your thought are to increase it to a near reasonable rate that benefits the climbers as well as the Agencies who have a limited operateing budget... Yes I do agree on that...My family had a personal friend lost on a climb on Mt Hood in 2004 or 5. So those services were not totaly recouped I believe..So  each year that negative affect adds to the bottom line for this years operateing cost....Thanks totaly with you on riseing the fee's. As a rock climber one of this years issue's is Anchor placement and removel. Which to me I kind of see it in the Parks defence.Dont deface the rock and leave it...catch 22 all the way around..thanks iclimb....Oh buy the way i will finaly get to see what your talking about in NE this year when I hit the Whites,,,

DrReaper
14 reviewer rep
318 forum posts
January 14, 2011 at 8:32 p.m. (EST)

As long as you hike on public lands, someone is paying for the roads that lead to the trail head, the trail signs, and the trail construction/maintenance.

I used to think that way also. The fact is none of these costs are transparent in any way. These agency's just ask for more and more. It doesn't matter if they need it or not.

If you want sustainability we need accountability. A website for each government agency should be created and accounting should be updated each day. If they work for us we should be able to check the books at anytime.

 

 

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
January 15, 2011 at 3:45 a.m. (EST)

If you want sustainability we need accountability. 

 

Oh you can have sustainability and be totally unaccountable, albeit there is nothing smart about throwing money into a pit, assured by the brush off "just trust us."

Accountability is an oft heard refrain from the right.  It is a good idea, but it usually gets selectively applied, for example the GOP pretty much rubber stamps all manner of military budget requests, but rarely asks for the level of transparency they demand of social programs.  This is perhaps our biggest target of opportunity to cut waste, yet politics purposefully foot drags on this.  I think if we want transparency, it needs to be a systemic and effective aspect of government administration, and not something uniquely cobbled together with every piece of legislation.  (OK I digress, me bad.)

Regardless of audit trails to validate the accounting, access to today's backcountry relies on resources that have a cost, and those costs exist no matter what you or I think. 

----------------

Some asked what are the costs associated with climbing Denali.  There are ranger stations: A permanent station at Talkeetna; at least one itinerant camp at the base of the mountain and another at mid mountain; there are other seasonally operated stations primarily dedicated to supporting mountaineering activities.  All these locations require staffing, equipping, training, feeding, and transportation.  There are various trails for trekkers who wish to walk a longer approach, rather than fly into the glaciers.  There is waste removal – it is unbelievable how much solid waste is generated by a climbing party.  Parties are supposed to clean their own camps, but often emergencies preclude this obligation.  Regardless how climbers get their trash off the mountain, someone has to transport it away to the dump.  There are ancillary services too, for example, weather forecasting and communications.  When I climbed they also required each climber to provide a resume and submit to an interview to assure competency, although I do not know if this is part of current policy. And then there are the rescue costs.  I am pretty sure the park service policy paper identifies all of these these and other costs.  Read it and be Ed 

Ben Cerise
57 reviewer rep
59 forum posts
January 30, 2011 at 1:33 a.m. (EST)

My opinion, concerning wilderness, the first thing that needs to be audited, cut, and reformed is the useless and over powered forest service.

This post has been locked and is not accepting new comments