Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • olyclimber

      WELCOME TO THE CASCADECLIMBERS.COM FORUMS   02/03/18

      We have upgraded to new forum software as of late last year, and it makes everything here so much better!  It is now much easier to do pretty much anything, including write Trip Reports, sell gear, schedule climbing related events, and more. There is a new reputation system that allows for positive contributors to be recognized,  it is possible to tag content with identifiers, drag and drop in images, and it is much easier to embed multimedia content from Youtube, Vimeo, and more.  In all, the site is much more user friendly, bug free, and feature rich!   Whether you're a new user or a grizzled cascadeclimbers.com veteran, we think you'll love the new forums. Enjoy!
Sign in to follow this  
Mike_Gauthier

keeping with business opportunities, not road openings...

Recommended Posts

the tacoma news tribune printed this today. there are a few factual errors, but for the most part, its on the mark.

Mount Rainier park officials seek public input, suggestions Recreation: 3 sessions set for talks about services

March 07, 2002

Skip Card; The News Tribune

Have you ever wished you could slog up Mount Rainier's most popular summit route without sharing the path with two dozen climbers who paid to be guided up the peak?

Do you have a suggestion to improve the beds, food or service at Paradise Inn? Were you unhappy with the souvenir you bought from a park gift shop or the firewood you bought at Cougar Rock Campground?

If so, Mount Rainier National Park officials want to hear from you.

Park officials have scheduled three sessions this month, in Tacoma, Seattle and Ashford, to hear comments on business operations at Mount Rainier. Comments will help officials craft the Commercial Services Plan, a guide to shaping future contracts and concessions in the park

The purpose of the sessions is for Mount Rainier visitors "to tell us what they would like to see changed, if anything," Mount Rainier superintendent Jon Jarvis said.

Like most national parks, Mount Rainier lets private companies take over chores such as managing hotels, operating restaurants and leading guided climbs. Even selling firewood or renting skis requires a park-issued business permit, most of which grant some exclusive rights.

Mount Rainier's largest contract is held by Guest Services Inc., which operates the park's inns, restaurants and gift shops. GSI's 25-year contract with the park expires in 2012.

What Jarvis called the most complicated contract is held by Rainier Mountaineering Inc. The current contact gives RMI exclusive rights to lead paying clients virtually anywhere on the mountain, including the most popular climbing route up Rainier's Disappointment Cleaver.

The core of RMI's business is its two-day summit climb, which - when combined with a one-day training session - costs $728 per person. RMI regularly leads up to 24 clients a day up the mountain in summer.

RMI has been Mount Rainier's primary guide service since 1968. Its contract with the park ran out last year, but it was given a one-year extension that expires in December.

RMI's policies have evolved somewhat as the job of overseeing operations has shifted from company founder Lou Whittaker to his oldest son, Peter. RMI now splits its clients into two groups of 12, in part so non-guided climbers don't encounter unwieldy groups at bottlenecks along the climbing route.

RMI guides between 3,300 and 3,500 climbers a year, roughly a third of all summit attempts. The company often turns away 1,000 potential customers in July and August because space is limited, but Peter Whittaker said he has no desire to expand the guide service's capacity.

"The number of people we're taking up now is plenty," he said. The company expects to gross roughly $2.5 million this year, he said.

RMI held a monopoly on all paid climbs until 1997, when park officials granted several other services permission to guide clients to the summit via Emmons Glacier. Four companies now offer four-day climbs up the Emmons, and prices range from $950 to $1,350 per person.

Each guided trip is limited to nine clients who travel with three guides between Monday and Thursday. The smaller groups and slower pace make the Emmons climbs so popular that each of the four guide services fields up to 2,000 inquiries for the 36 spaces available each summer.

Gordon Janow, director of programs at Alpine Ascents International, one of the four companies guiding on the Emmons, said he would like to see the park allow companies besides RMI more access to more of the mountain on more days, especially for training seminars.

And the park might also consider setting aside two or three weekends when guided climbs are prohibited and Mount Rainier is reserved for amateurs, he said.

"That would give independent climbers an opportunity to climb or train and not see guide services," Janow said. Routes on such weekends would be less crowded and perhaps closer to the wilderness experience some climbers seek, he said.

It's not clear if future changes in Mount Rainier's commercial policies will lead to sweeping changes in guiding, hotel operations or other business activity. Laws governing National Park Service contracts often give existing concession-holders the right to keep their jobs by matching any competitors' best offer.

But all new contracts set policies the contract holders must follow and tasks they must perform.

In other words, Jarvis said, "We get to determine what the offer is."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"And the park might also consider setting aside two or three weekends when guided climbs are prohibited and Mount Rainier is reserved for amateurs, he said."

The rest of the weekends, all those professional clients will be up there... rolleyes.gif" border="0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When is the Seattle session scheduled?

One simple procedure I'd like to see implemented is for all climbers that are issued climbing passes in winter be given the current combination to the gate. Last week we came down to the gate around 10:30pm because we were so late returning from the summit and there was the closed gate to greet us. My partner managed to "find" the combo from someone, but who needs the uncertainy when your dead tired? confused.gif" border="0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know there are many of you out there that REALLY do not like guiding. But the fact of the matter is that guiding is as old as climbing. Another fact of the matter is that guiding on Rainier is here to stay. Like it or not.

If we got rid of RMI and the Emmons gang, renegade guiding would be the only alternative. This would of course leave the park service with no way to "police" the mountain. They would have no control over the guides and thier practices.

I do believe that the park should open up some routes to other guide companies, but it should not create a free for all. I also think the use of the lower slopes by guide companies for schools and seminars is a good idea.

I think RMI for the most part does one hell of a job. They are helpful, when help is really needed on the mountain. I know they screw up occaisionally, and they have pissed me off a time or two as well.

But what are the alternatives?

1) Get rid of guiding?2) Limit it further, driving up prices?3) Open the mountain up to all guides, anarchy?4) Others?

Just thinking out loud here and trying to create a good diologue. I really can't say I am sold either way. This may be a good thread. But I have to go to a CLE.

So...spray away. That means you too DRU!!! wink.gif" border="0

[big Drink]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

money drives everything......

i dont know if this is true or not, but i thought we were/are able to see the contracts the consessionaires have with the nps....freedom of info act??

it would be interesting to see what kind of profit each(nps, gsi) plans to make each season....being this all public land i would personally think that the profit margins should be kept low to not out price anyone.....maybe even have some sort of social program to get into the park for less fortuante people.....

cause why should certain people profit from public land???? especially at the expense of the owners??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks a million Mike, this is what I was looking for. I'm going to try and get a hold of that contract with RMI, would be interesting to read it and see what the "real deal" is. Wonder why RMI only got a one year extension?!?! If anyone gets a copy can you post it or get a hold of me, will do same if I find it.

Good/bad quotes: RMI:

quote:

"The number of people we're taking up now is plenty," he said. {Peter Whittaker}

Right. Way too many to be doing it every day during the summer.

Skip Card gave a lot of space to old Gordon at AAI. I guess he couldn't get anyone else to interview besides guides. How about all the "amateur" climber's view points? We do make up the other 2/3's of the people climbing Rainier. Skip could have interviewed someone at MRNP. And what makes us amateurs anyway? Because we don't do it for money? confused.gif" border="0

quote:

"That would give independent climbers an opportunity to climb or train and not see guide services," Janow said.

Not see the guided parties? How the clogging of the DC route, or passing bagged and tagged victims of RMI! How about getting crowded out of Camp Shurman on a weekday! $20 is a good investment to hold a spot now-a-days.

quote:

...And the park might also consider setting aside two or three weekends when guided climbs are prohibited and Mount Rainier is reserved for amateurs, he said. {Gordon}

Yep, I guess in his eyes we're either a guide or an amateur. WTF?Would be nice, but AAI goes during the week between Monday and Thursday. Nice to see he's only willing for RMI to make the sacrifice. Slick! shocked.gif" border="0 Surprised that Skip didn't follow up on this comment...

quote:

Gordon Janow, director of programs at Alpine Ascents International, one of the four companies guiding on the Emmons, said he would like to see the park allow companies besides RMI more access to more of the mountain on more days, especially for training seminars.

So AAI is for: some guide free weekends, helps AAI; more routes open on the mountain, helps AAI. I really hope more of us "Amateur" climbers show up at these meetings then the guide services. If they have to turn away 1,964 clients every year, raise the price and let the market economy take over! I wonder how many "independent/amateur" climbers are turned away each year because there is no room on the guided routes because of the guided parties?Guides can go to plenty of other place to train. Why Rainier? Because it has the shortest approach?

I hope there will be enough people at the meeting to take the side of the everyday climbing Joe. Because you know all the guided outfits will be there in force to lubricate the wheels of bureaucracy to turn their way. Think about it, the people who put 1/3 of the people on the top get 4/5'ths input to the rules. See you all on the 19th. smile.gif" border="0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i just spoke with MORA about all contracts with the nps and they are available to the public, but only after you request them through the freedom of information act....there is a 2 week delay on getting them to you, so they may edit the content....i have made this request via email....

the lady i spoke to at the park was very nice and full of information.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Radon:

This info is based on understanding and I am not claiming to know it all. So take it with a grain of salt.

"I wonder how many "independent/amateur" climbers are turned away each year because there is no room on the guided routes because of the guided parties?"

Actually this would be easy to calculate. It is my understanding that each time a guide compnay leads a climber it is charged for a "user day." Each user day is a spot on a route that cannot be used by an "amatuer" as you/they say. Assuming the routes are always full (they certainly are full in July and August). Each spot/user day is one that an amatuer cannot climb, at least on that route. Each route has a maximum capacity of climbers that the NPS has calculated as safe, kind of a carrying capacity.

"Guides can go to plenty of other place to train."

The training on the lower slopes should not count against the number allowed on a route. I believe that is the case, as long as they stay below 10,000 feet. I think what is being suggested is that the lowers slopes be open to guide companies conducting crevase type schools and snow schools.

my 2 cents

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

RMI is a first class operation. They not only open the door to many who lack the necessary experience to do the mountain "on their own", they have come to the rescue of many an "experienced" party as well.

That said, I believe that a fair and competitive bidding process should reveal only ONE guide service to operate on Rainier. Lou and company have proven themselves time and time again.

The Dissapointment Cleaver (with its minor variations) should be the only "guide route". The appointed guide service should not possess more than 1/2 of the available permits for this route. The Emmons, Kautz, Tahoma, Furher Finger, etc. and all of their permits, should be reserved exclusively for independents. At the very least, the climber-to-guide ratio for non-DC routes should not be allowed to exceed 1:1.

Disclaimer: I have never been, nor have I ever used the services of a guide and/or guide service.

My two cents.

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

quote:

Originally posted by Fairweather:
RMI is a first class operation. They not only open the door to many who lack the necessary experience to do the mountain "on their own", they have come to the rescue of many an "experienced" party as well.

That said, I believe that a fair and competitive bidding process should reveal only ONE guide service to operate on Rainier. Lou and company have proven themselves time and time again.

The Dissapointment Cleaver (with its minor variations) should be the only "guide route". The appointed guide service should not possess more than 1/2 of the available permits for this route. The Emmons, Kautz, Tahoma, Furher Finger, etc. and all of their permits, should be reserved exclusively for independents. At the very least, the climber-to-guide ratio for non-DC routes should not be allowed to exceed 1:1.

Disclaimer: I have never been, nor have I ever used the services of a guide and/or guide service.

My two cents.

Brian

While the issue of having one guide service versus allowing competition is debatable in my view, I agree with the rest of your proposal. You do of course realize that RMI would be absolutely livid with such an arrangement- much of it on the principle that it drastically cuts back their current on-mountain presence. Not to say I disagree with it, just that they won't like it.I also think that eyesore of a shelter- the "Gombu", that plywood shack that houses the clients, should be removed and not replaced. It is ugly and it additionally gives the Park concessionaire undue visual/aesthetic/intrusive presence. I can recall that the two most frequent questions I got from climbers at Muir were "what's the weather forecast"?, and, "what time is RMI leaving"? The Camp Schurman Rangers assured me that the IBP (Independent Business Permit) guided climbs over there (AAI, CAG, etc.) by and large completely blended in with other climbers as just another climbing group, whereas at Muir, RMI's 28+ group size(now reduced...), two large shelters, etc., has presented in my personal opinion a gross overbearing presence that causes independent climbing teams to have to plan around them. I might add, plan around them for one of two reasons- either to avoid them, or to "shadow" them because they are inexperienced themselves and want to stay close to the guides and let the guided team dictate their pace and decision to turn around, as well as having some knowledgeable and experienced climbing guides nearby in case they get in trouble.No climbing team, particularly one that is sanctioned by the park service, should command such a loud presence on the mountain. I support the action that has reduced their groups into two 12 person teams, which is also the limit for the general public, and I further support the removal of the client shelter which is not a historic building, and putting the clients in tents. This also, in my opinion, gives the clients a better "mountain" experience if the goal of many of them, as it seems to be, is to go on to bigger mountains like Denali that don't have protected huts to sleep in.All that said, having watched RMI up close in person for a few years, by and large they do their job and do it well. They have been a valuable resource for the NPS on many SARs on the mountain. They know the mountain, and they know how to get people up and down. They aren't perfect, they've made some mistakes, but who's perfect? There's some assholes in the group, but there are in every group. I don't like the past and current arrangement RMI has had with the park, but it's not really about RMI. It wouldn't matter who it was.Fairweather, just a question- Denali NP has six guide services that operate there, and it is working very well. Granted, it is a much larger mountain, but do you think it is impossible or inappropriate to allow competition and parity on Rainier? RMI is very competant, yet so are both AAI's, Rainier Alpine Guides, and CAG. If the NPS is going to sanction guided climbs, don't you think given the nature of climbing that the public should be given a choice of who to hire to teach them and take them up a cold and potentially dangerous mountain like Rainier? With the reduction of RMI presence that you propose- relegating them to the DC- and keeping the other four services as they currently are- one group a week, 9 clients/3 guides, weekdays only, different guide service each week, Emmons Glacier only- I think this works pretty well, and allows a choice to the client. Additionally, it leaves the Emmons (and Tahoma, et.al.) wide open to independent use on weekends. For that matter, on weekdays, the Emmons guide groups take up 12 of the 110 permits at Schurman/Emmons Flats- that's very acceptable, I think. I think the only thing that needs to happen is to tweak RMI's presence at Camp Muir. Something that would even the tables for the other four guide services, who under that arrangement are getting fewer user days on the mountain, might be allowing more lower mountain glacier access for snow schools, along with small (2-4 people maximum) private climbs on more remote routes, perhaps weekdays only. Just my thoughts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more comment- should the mountain be reduced to having only one "guide route"- and it pains me say this because it (selfishly) has potential to "intrude" on a sentimental area and the place of my first roped climbs and a place that holds some special meaning- the Emmons is way more logical. It is less steep than the DC, WAY SAFER a route, and the terrain is FAR MORE conducive to allowing faster teams to pass slower teams than the DC ever will be.

I cannot figure out why everyone flocks to the DC thinking it the easiest way up. It's a choss pile and has both rock and icefall danger that has killed many people. The Emmons has a longer approach and more crevassed terrain but technically and objectively is a no-brainer. A perfect route to guide.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks to Mike G. for raising public awareness. It is our park.

I have some thoughts, and wonder what others think. I have some previous mountain guiding experience, but am no longer doing that work since 1995.

I believe a good option for the public, park, and the guiding industry; would be for independent UAMGA guides to be the sole guiding concessionaire on Rainier and other public lands as well. I think this would be especially good for the public. Everybody wins with that system more than any other I think. Most people will be willing to pay professional rates, for quality instruction/leadership. It would most likely be less expensive than the current RMI prices. The clubs would continue to provide valuable training as well, though I might suggest that clubs consider hiring certified guides to help design courses, and train instructors.

More important issues to me, are the services that the park provides to myself, and other non-guided, , non-motorized backcountry, tree hugger people. A nicer public facility at Muir would be my dream. Windows, double door, public stove, etc. I might still sleep out side, but it sure would be nice to get out of the wind and weather to cook and warm up. That, and less restricted backcountry access.

I'll send my letter to the park superintendent. Lets all send a letter.

Jim Nelson

[ 03-09-2002: Message edited by: pms ]

[ 03-09-2002: Message edited by: pms ]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

quote:

Originally posted by W:
One more comment- should the mountain be reduced to having only one "guide route"- and it pains me say this because it (selfishly) has potential to "intrude" on a sentimental area and the place of my first roped climbs and a place that holds some special meaning- the Emmons is way more logical. It is less steep than the DC, WAY SAFER a route, and the terrain is FAR MORE conducive to allowing faster teams to pass slower teams than the DC ever will be. I cannot figure out why everyone flocks to the DC thinking it the easiest way up. It's a choss pile and has both rock and icefall danger that has killed many people. The Emmons has a longer approach and more crevassed terrain but technically and objectively is a no-brainer. A perfect route to guide.

W,I think the fact that The Emmons often isn't "in shape" for as much of the season as is DC, plus the fact that DC has two or three "back up" variations (ie: Ingraham Direct early season, DC mid season, and south Emmons late season) is probably why Muir is the chosen route. Plus the fact that White River Campground isn't open early season to accomodate May or some June climbs and parking would be a problem.

I would just as soon see Emmons the preferred route for independents. Also, if RMI was allotted 1/2 of the permits for DC wouldn't that be an increase from the 1/3 they get now? (are my facts wrong here?...I honestly don't know)

I am not sure the Emmons is any safer than DC. It is sure more scenic! I believe that Furher Finger in June or early July is the safest way up Rainier. (for a small party, that is)

You are right about the Guide Shack at Muir. What an eye sore! I don't have a problem with huts in general though. Europe and Canadian Rockies/Interior Ranges have done well with them. They tend to concentrate people and help negate "mountain sprawl". I was pissed when Olympic NP started burning down public shelters back in the late 70's....but that is a different subject...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

quote:

Originally posted by Fairweather:

W,I think the fact that The Emmons often isn't "in shape" for as much of the season as is DC, plus the fact that DC has two or three "back up" variations (ie: Ingraham Direct early season, DC mid season, and south Emmons late season) is probably why Muir is the chosen route. Plus the fact that White River Campground isn't open early season to accomodate May or some June climbs and parking would be a problem.

Depends on what is "in shape"- having worked on both sides multiple years, I always thought the DC to be far more hazardous and "out" in September than the Emmons. The icefall getting on the cleaver in some years particularly gets nasty.You also make a good case by example for getting WR campground open sooner, and/or trying to keep the road at least plowed if not open in the winter. Then again, funding plays into this.

quote:

Originally posted by Fairweather:
I would just as soon see Emmons the preferred route for independents. Also, if RMI was allotted 1/2 of the permits for DC wouldn't that be an increase from the 1/3 they get now? (are my facts wrong here?...I honestly don't know)

Yes, RMI gets 35 of the 110 slots. At least when last I worked there, which was 1999. I see what you're getting at here. Any guide service competition that does enter into the mix, which is already happening now and likely to expand (which is why public input is needed before the decisions get made for us) though would invariably require some sort of compromise- which logically makes the Emmons have to play into the whole scheme. I agree with you sentimentally on the Emmons, though, as I stated before- it's way more scenic on that side! The greater crowds on the Muir side notwithstanding, when I got moved over to Muir the thing I missed most were the sunsets from Schurman, the moon rising over Little T, and that sort of aura emanating from so much ice poised around one's location, frozen in motion. Awesome.

quote:

Originally posted by Fairweather:
I am not sure the Emmons is any safer than DC. It is sure more scenic! I believe that Furher Finger in June or early July is the safest way up Rainier. (for a small party, that is)

Safety ultimately is up to the climber- but you have to admit the falling debris issue on the DC far outdistances the Emmons for objective danger. Crevassed glacier travel is "objective" I guess, but both routes have it.

quote:

Originally posted by Fairweather:
You are right about the Guide Shack at Muir. What an eye sore! I don't have a problem with huts in general though. Europe and Canadian Rockies/Interior Ranges have done well with them. They tend to concentrate people and help negate "mountain sprawl". I was pissed when Olympic NP started burning down public shelters back in the late 70's....but that is a different subject...

Another possible approach I thought about here would be to rebuild and relocate all the buildings at Muir so that they are not so scattered, ugly, and taking up so commanding a presence in the camp. My point in regards to RMI having such an overbearing presence at Muir has greatly to do with the fact that one's arrival at Muir is right into the front door of two large huts. It's debatable about whether the clients should have a hut, but since there is one for the public and the guides, and for the climbing rangers (which at Muir is the size of a fricking closet! frown.gif" border="0 ) maybe some new huts could consolidate what is currently there to have less visual impact and provide the existing level of service. The bottom line no matter what is that the Gombu needs to be taken down.

[ 03-09-2002: Message edited by: W ]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

W,

How do you reply to a post and break out those multiple quotes? Everytime I play with the instant UBB code bars I screw it up!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why not build 2 huts at Muir, one "smokefree" (for Scott'didas and Larson) and the other with a huge glass bong in the middle for PineyK et al.?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Because they spent the money they were going to use on a second hut, on a wheelchair accessible bathroom instead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know of a small but dedicated group of people (with the resources), who have been talking to the NPS to eliminate all the buildings, except the original stone hut, and build a new, hidden from view, hut, big enough for independents and guided. It is a long road but with private money doing most of te work, the NPS is at least listening.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

quote:

Originally posted by Fairweather:
W,

How do you reply to a post and break out those multiple quotes? Everytime I play with the instant UBB code bars I screw it up!

When you press reply, make sure each individual paragraph you wish to respond to has the entirety of the prefix text and suffix text- the QUOTE in brackets and the part that says "originally posted by". For all individual sections. Then just type your responses in between each paragraph.

[ 03-10-2002: Message edited by: W ]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

quote:

Originally posted by Mike Gauthier:
RMI guides between 3,300 and 3,500 climbers a year, roughly a third of all summit attempts. The company often turns away 1,000 potential customers in July and August because space is limited, but Peter Whittaker said he has no desire to expand the guide service's capacity.


Great thread. This particular statistic caught my attention. With so many potential clients being turned away, it would seem that Pete Whittaker could raise his prices and still operate at capacity. For those who question whether the $728 price on a weekend with Big Lou Jr. is evidence of RMI's greed, just notice that the market suggests the opposite.

Also, this is purely speculative, and I don't pretend to know much about the relationship between RMI and the NPS, but I suspect the Park Service sees RMI as defacto mountain police on the Disappointment Cleaver route, in the sense that with 1/3 of the traffic on the mountain's most popular route under RMI's supervision, there's a good chance that skilled professionals will always be near in the event of a tragedy, professionals who operate under the command of one administration, and with whom the Park Service has a long working relationship. If eight or nine outfits were to operate on that same route, I'm not sure the public would climb the Cleaver with the same "insurance" one would find in the presence of RMI, and I think the route would be just as crowded as ever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're right, RMI can charge as much as they want and still book all of their trips. In the five years I've been dealing with them they've raised they're prices over $200 bucks.

As far as defacto police: I've never been up that route without seeing a ranger either on the trail or at the shack. It is still the default route on the mountain and you can see all sorts of weirdness up there on any give day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hey everyone

i'm gathering some stats about guiding on rainier, but before i post, is there anything in particular you folks want to know?

any questions i should think about?

thanks

mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i got one- who do the chicks dig more, climbing rangers or guides?here's another one to think about-if a tree falls in the forest while a guided team is on the DC, does the guided team make a sound? confused.gif" border="0[Wazzup]rolleyes.gif" border="0

[ 03-11-2002: Message edited by: W ]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

×