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Climbing community upset as Rainier plans 67 percent fee increase

Post by Craig Hill / The News Tribune on Sep. 10, 2010 at 10:15 pm with 2 Comments »
September 10, 2010 10:18 pm

Officials at Mount Rainier National Park want to increase the fee to climb the Northwest’s tallest mountain by as much as 67 percent next year and the mountaineering community isn’t happy.

This week, park superintendent Dave Uberuaga will propose to the National Park Service to increase the fee for an annual Rainier climbing pass from $30 to as much as $50. He says the increase is necessarily to properly train climbing rangers and fund the climbing program.

Uberuaga may also propose the fee potentially increase annually based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

On Sept. 7, three climbing activist groups sent a letter to park service director Jon Jarvis protesting the increase as well as a 150 percent hike at Denali National Park.

In the letter signed by the directors of the Access Fund, American Alpine Club and American Alpine Guides Association, the groups call the increases “unnecessary and unfair.”

READ MORE in Sunday’s News Tribune and Olympian. Here’s a copy of the letter the groups sent to the NPS:


J Jarvis fee letter 090710

September 7, 2010

Dear Director Jarvis:
The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and American Mountain Guides Association recently became aware that Denali National Park & Preserve (Denali) intends, without public notice, to raise mountaineering fees 150% from $200 to $500 per climber. In addition, a steep increase for mountaineering fees (from $30 to $50 on top of camping fees) is proposed at Mount Rainier National Park (Rainier). In these tough economic times, these large fee increases will price Americans out of their own parks. We write today to protest these unnecessary and unfair mountaineering fee increases, and request information about National Park Service mountaineering programs and any associated budgeting and related costs to better understand the need to raise these already disproportionate recreation fees.

We are particularly troubled that these fee increases did not receive the benefit of public input and the National Park Service failed to even consult with its long-time partners at the Access Fund, American Alpine Club and American Mountain Guides Association. We request that any proposals to increase mountaineering fees at Denali or Rainier be analyzed through a range of alternatives and benefit from an open public process with published information about the need and purpose for an increased fee.
Access Fund, American Alpine Club and American Mountain Guides Association
The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and American Mountain Guides Association are national climbing advocacy organizations dedicated to climbing access, conservation, advancing the climbing way of life, and advocating for American climbers. These national climbing organization each have a long history of working with the National Park Service, including input on the 2006 revision to the NPS Management Policies, comment letters on hundreds of local management plans around the country, rescue cost-recovery and recreation impact studies, grants and many thousands of volunteer hours in
support education and stewardship projects, field training and climbing management conferences, and congressional advocacy urging robust funding for National Park Service operations. We have also long worked collaboratively with the National Park Service and dozens of other national parks around the country on climbing management planning initiatives and stewardship projects. For more about us, see,, and
The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, American Mountain Guides Association are your best partners with respect to the education of mountaineers, public support for your management goals and programs, and the fulfillment of your obligation to provide unique mountaineering opportunities in the parks. However, these fee increases were proposed without input from the mountaineering community despite our expertise and affiliation with this specific user group (mountaineers). Denali’s plan to raise mountaineering fees from $200 to $500 reflects an unprecedented increase, is not based on need, and unfairly targets climbers. Moreover, simply raising fees 150% without public input during these tough economic times is shocking and is likely to result in lower numbers of Americans able to afford the unique mountaineering experiences found at Denali. This extraordinary mountaineering fee increase is a national issue and we believe that Denali managers may simply be unfairly shifting more of the burden of the park’s budget onto climbers. We’re also skeptical that the current fee level for mountaineering is warranted. Rainier’s fee increase appears similarly unjustified. We fear that these added costs will make the unique mountaineering opportunities available at Denali and Rainier too expensive for many Americans.
So we can better understand the National Park Service’s specific management challenges related to mountaineering (and thus inform our members and the public generally), we request your cooperation in providing us with as much information as possible related to mountaineering programs and any associated plans or programs at both Denali and Rainier. To that end, we request the following information from these two parks:

Any costs, expenses, and budgeting documentation, correspondence or related information (including years) concerning the mountaineering programs (or other park operations affecting climbing management) at Denali and Rainier, specifically:
Search and rescue and any emergency medical services
Visitor use statistics (numbers, categories and attributes of park users)
General park operations and law enforcement
Visitor and resource protection

Any National Park Service records or correspondence related to the establishment and maintenance of the current mountaineering fee at Denali and Rainier national parks.

Any National Park Service records or correspondence related to any proposals to increase the mountaineering fee at Denali and Rainier national parks.

All public or individual notices provided by the National Park Service concerning the preparation of any management plans or policies that have any proposals or influence on recreation fees at Denali and Rainier national parks.
We will be filing a Freedom of Information Act request to both Denali and Rainier to obtain the information outlined above. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact any of us at your convenience. We look forward to working with the National Park Service to preserve the world-class mountaineering opportunities found at Denali and Rainier national parks.
Thank you for your assistance.
Brady Robinson
Executive Director
The Access Fund
303-545-6772 x101
Phil Powers
Executive Director
American Alpine Club
303-384-0110 x12
Betsy Novak
Executive Director
American Mountain Guides Association
303-271-0984 x101
The Honorable Patty Murray, US Senate
The Honorable Maria Cantwell, US Senate
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski, US Senate
The Honorable Mark Begich, US Senate
The Honorable Don Young, US House of Representatives
The Honorable Dave Reichert, US House of Representatives
US Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
US Senate National Parks Subcommittee
US House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
US House of Representatives National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee
Will Shafroth, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, US Interior Department
Garry Oye, Chief of Wilderness Stewardship & Recreation Management, National Park Service
Rick Potts, Chief of Conservation & Outdoor Recreation Division, National Park Service
Paul Anderson, Superintendent, Denali National Park
Dave Uberuaga, Superintendent, Mount Rainier National Park
Mike Gauthier, Liaison to the National Park Service, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish,
Wildlife, and Parks, US Interior Department

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. paradiselost says:

    Only a small percentage of search & rescue incidents in National Parks involve climbers:

    Maybe these steep fee increases wouldn’t be necessary if numerous changes in the new Paradise VC design hadn’t ballooned the cost to well over $20 million, many times the initial estimates?

  2. rockrabbit says:

    I think access to all or most of our public land should be free, but these kind of moves are the inevitable consequences of Americans’ irrational refusal to pay the taxes it takes to have decent stewardship of public land (and transportation resources, and education, etc., etc.)

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