Guiding Threatened in Denali National Park!

Denali National Park and Preserve is about to make a major decision concerning the number of clients who are allowed to be guided in a given season – the total number of people allowed to hire a mountain guide. Like in Black Canyon of the Gunnison (more on that later), the NPS is preparing to make a judgment that guiding diminishes the quality of “self-reliance” and is not in accordance with the wilderness objectives of Denali. This is the end of the last comment period to provide input on this new policy, which will determine the future of guiding access on the highest peak in North America.

Even if you don't ever plan on climbing Mt McKinley – Denali – this decision could effect where, when, and how you could hire a guide. Other National Parks and land managers will watch what is decided and how it effects visitors to determine if something similar should happen at their location. By commenting now you're not just effecting policies in Alaska, but potentially also effecting policies in Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Grand Teton, Black Canyon, Rock Mountain, and other wilderness areas.

So please support this important issue and submit your thoughtful comment by October 15th. Visit this link – http://parkplanning.nps.gov – and click on “Climbing Allocation for Mount McKinley.”
Consider these points while you write:

Unfortunately, not one of the three Alternatives proposed by the Park effectively accommodates visitor opportunity and the public's historical or current demand for a guided climb on Denali.

The NPS is making a biased judgment that the private climber (self-guided) has a higher moral right to climb Denali. The perspective of the climbing community (represented by the three national climbing organizations, the American Mountain Guides Association, American Alpine Club and The Access Fund), which is documented in December 2010 scoping letters, is that there is a spectrum of style choices when it comes to experiencing the vertical wilderness. Climbing with a professional guide is one of them. The Park is not adequately or fairly giving this option to members of the public.

Even with current guided climbing levels at 40%, a private, self-guided climber wishing to attempt Denali has never been displaced nor has the Park come close to that happening. The Park's total climbing numbers have remained flat over the past 10 years (between 1100 - 1300). The Park has yet to approach its total climber maximum of 1500. The public's demand for a self-guided experience has waned in the past 10 years. The public's demand for a guided experience has increased in the past 10 years.

Trends point to a continued increase in the public demand for guided summit attempts due to a variety of factors including the unique requirements of Alaskan terrain and the educational and safety benefits of climbing with a trained professional.

If the Park is unwilling to consider and propose a fair and equitable Alternative -- which eliminates altogether the use of an arbitrarily chosen percentage and instead allows public demand to drive climbing allocations -- then the Park should guarantee guided climbing use at 50% of total possible activity on the West Buttress. To then accommodate increased visitor demand in the future, I support the Park's proposal to allocate unused climbing permits by private climbers to those wishing to be guided.
Thanks for your support!

LINK to the National Park Service site - remember to click on "Climbing Allocation for Mount McKinley"

Thanks to the American Mountain Guide Association for the alert and the talking points provided above.

All the photos are from my successful 2004 trip on Mt McKinley with Rainier Mountaineering Inc.  We had 100% team success in reaching the summit and making it back without any injuries!