Denali Backcountry Management Plan to be Reexamined

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Growing interest in guided climbs of Denali has prompted a review by the National Park Service.  The agency is looking at whether a limit in Denali’s backcountry management plan is sync with current trend on the mountain.  The plan limits guided mountaineers to 25 percent of the 1,500 climbers allowed on the peak between April 1 and August 1 each year.  Park Service Environmental Protection Specialist Paula Homan says the limit may not be realistic.

Homan says the 25 percent guided limit was designed to maintain a wilderness feel on the mountain, not meet the current demand for commercially guided expeditions.

The limit on the number of guided climbers allowed on the mountain is an issue now because 10 year climbing concession contracts are coming up for re-bid in 2012.  The limit was set during a lengthy overhaul of the Park’s backcountry management plan completed in 2006, and Homan says it’s already outdated.

The Park Service is in the scoping phase of developing an environmental assessment of possible changes to the guided climber limit.  Six companies currently have guide concession contracts to operate on Denali. The assessment will not consider increasing the total number of mountaineers allowed on mountain. 1,223 climbers attempted Denali this past season, well within the management plan’s overall limit.

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