This story has been making the rounds the past few days and it seems there is some truth to rumors that climbing fees are going to be going up on Denali, possibly substantially. The National Park Service is considering raising the cost of a climbing permit from their current rate of $200 up to $500 by the 2012 season. That’s an increase of 150%
In recent years, traffic has begun to increase on Denali, and that has led to increased expenses for the Park Service. There have been more search and rescue operations conducted, and the funds necessary to maintain resources on the mountain and remove waste, have gone up dramatically as well. As a result, there the budget for services on the mountain is reportedly $1.2 million below what is needed. Raising the climbing fees is one way to try to ease this situation.
The fee increase is far from a sure thing at this point, and local businesses are saying that it could hurt the economy there, forcing climbers to go elsewhere. The Park Service is expected to have an 18-month long period for public comment, hoping to hear multiple sides of the situation and exploring all options before deciding on the fees increase.
Personally, while I’m seldom in favor of these kinds of increases, I have to say that $200 for a climbing permit is pretty damn cheap for a mountain of the stature of Denali. It is the highest peak in North America, and a substantial challenge for climbers, especially those that want to test themselves on a big mountain, with unpredictable weather, before they go to the Himalaya. While I appreciate that a $300 increase is a hefty one, a $500 fee still seems affordable and reasonable for this mountain. Especially if it makes a difference in how safe and clean the Park Service can make it.