Thoughts on the Denali Fee Hike


The ridge between the headwall and 17,000' camp on a busy day. [Photo] Keese Lane

Permits for climbing mountains, while common in Asia, are not the world wide norm. Elbrus, another one of the Seven requires no permit. Neither do mountaineering icons such as the Matterhorn, Blanc and the Eiger. The Slovenians celebrated their independence atop Triglav, the highest point in their country. Nearby Mt. Logan's permits max out at $110 and are a combination of backcountry camping permits, and permits for landing an airplane inside the park boundary.

During our climb, a guided client from the British Isles told me that with the dollar so low he felt like it was cheaper to climb Denali than go climbing in the Alps. Similarly the Australians on their Seven Summit tour would still have climbed the mountain, especially with Vinson and Everest behind them. For the majority of West Buttress climbers an extra three hundred dollar fee will be waived off as inconvenient but not enough to prevent them from climbing the mountain. I remember the sudden realization at 11,000' that of the dozen tents pitched in camp ours was the only one with patches and wear from previous use. Someone who has just spent over $1,000 on equipment, more on a guide, bought plane tickets to Alaska, and then tickets to the Kahiltna, will probably not feel the pinch of an extra $300.


Many will not even notice it. The West Buttress on Denali is seen as an easy and safe way to reach the summit of a 6000m peak. The climbers this route attracts will mostly prefer the service provided by the NPS to no services at all.

The true loss is for the climbers who wish to climb technical routes on Denali, routes during the off-season or on nearlby Mt. Foraker (Nine climbers attempted Foraker last year, compared with the 1,200 who attempted Denali). The small minority of climbers seeking a difficult alpine experience on America's highest peak will end up paying a steep fee along with the many climbers trudging up the West Buttress, an unfortunate side effect of the mountain's prominence and popularity.

Sources:Kris Fister,
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