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Denali National Park Officials Looking At Allocation of Climbing Permits For Mount McKinley


Denali National Park officials are looking into how climbing permits for Mount McKinley are allocated between commercial guiding operations and private parties. NPS photo of Mount McKinley.

While it's long been settled that 1,500 climbing permits are issued annually for Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve, how those permits are distributed between guiding companies and private groups is now being revisited by park officials.

Park officials are beginning work on an environmental assessment to examine the breakdown of permits given commercial guides and independent climbers for the climbing season that runs from April 1 to August 1. Currently, the park's Backcountry Management Plan allocates 25 percent of the permits to commercially guided groups.

Concessionaire guided climbs are a longstanding tradition in Denali, according to park officials, who say interest in guided climbing is increasing and the National Park Service wants to determine how best to accommodate this demand, while assuring that wilderness resource values, visitor experience, and other park resources are protected.

Denali officials currently are in the scoping phase of this project and invite the
public to submit written comments by December 6. You can submit your comments online at, fax them to (907) 683-9612, or mail them to Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, ATTN: Climbing EA, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755.

On another climbing-related matter, park officials expect later this year to announce a study into whether the cost of those permits should be increased. Worries that it might get more expensive to climb Mount McKinley or Mount Rainier in its namesake park earlier this fall prompted three climbing groups to ask National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to stave off any increases.

It currently costs $200 per person to climb Mount McKinley or Mount Foraker in Denali, and $30 for a permit to head up Mount Rainier. That Rainier permit is good for one year.


The cost is relative to the the cost of a rescue operation. How many rescues are performed each year? How many hikers are in excellent shape to attempt a climb? Are climbers over-estimating their abilities?

Given the shortfall of funding for the Parks, it may be time for the Park Service to consider setting aside some fraction of the permits for a lottery, and then putting the remaining passes up for auction on Ebay. That way, the true value of those permits can go towards protecting the Parks.

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