Denali National Park and Preserve officials have extended the public comment period on their plans for allocating climbing permits on Mount McKinley by two weeks, and you can pretty much be sure those who make their living guiding climbs will have something to say.
While it long has been settled that 1,500 climbing permits are issued annually for Mount McKinley, how those permits are distributed between six guiding companies and private groups is being revisited by park officials. Currently they have three alternatives under consideration:
• Alternative 1 is a no action alternative, which would enforce the annual limit of 25 percent of 1,500 (375 climbers) for commercially guided climbing set by the Backcountry Management Plan.
• Alternative 2 guarantees commercially guided climbing of 25 percent of 1,500 (375 climbers), and also allows commercially guided climbing to utilize any remaining unused permits up to 50% of 1500 (750 climbers) providing no independent climbers are displaced.
• Alternative 3 guarantees commercially guided climbing of 25 percent of 1,500 (375 climbers), and also allows commercially guided climbing to utilize any remaining unused permits providing no independent climbers are displaced.
But the guiding companies say they need a better guarantee to stay in business. Todd Burleson owns Alpine Ascents International. He told radio station KTNA in Talkeetna, Alaska, that the costs of operating his business -- liability insurance, training guides, administrative overhead -- make it hard to stay in business under the current structure.
He'd rather see the climbing companies be assured of 40 percent of the 1,500 permits.
While the public comment period had been set to expire today, park officials pushed it back until October 31 after being asked to allow time for more input. You can find details on the proposal, and comment, at this site.