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MarmotMountain

PUBLIC MEETING WEDS 2/2/11: RAINIER CLIMBING FEES

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Good points ...

 

Picking nits here, "serve a need" and "are needed" are slightly different things. So let me rephase my point; while not needed, the NPS and public structures serve a need. :D

 

However, dismantling them will require either delisting from the National Historic Register or for them to disintegrate into the complete disrepair. The public shelter was well on its way to the latter until recently.

 

The blog is more efficient because of bureaucratic politics.

 

I personally would love to see zero presence on the hill. But I fully understand and acknowledge the chaos that would ensue. The situation on Rainier is a product of being the highest peak in the Cascades and requiring an overnight on the hill and as such whether we like it or not there will need to be a presence on the hill. Especially for the two standard routes.

 

Because of it prominence it will always attract more climbers than any other hill in the Cascades. The same for Mt. Whintey and Denali. The reason Hood and many other peaks manage to escape the BS is due to being on land managed by the Forest Service. However, they are not far behind ala Mt. Whitney the highest peak in the lower 48 with a non technical route to the summit. Those on Adams are taking a cue and look at the BS for it now. Where to the vast majority end up? On the mule trail to the top. St Helens active volcano so everyone and their dog wants to climb it. The list goes on. If a peak has a claim it is getting hammered.

 

Those with no claim, just do not get the visitation. And today that is what it is all about visitation. Baker and Jefferson just do not have the visitation and as such do not have the associated impacts.

 

That said the point of what to expect or mission is where it should be at. I'd like to walk down through Muir without having to step through someone's shit pile or have to see gumby get their ass pucked off the hill. If that means a ranger is up there teaching folks how to poop in a blue bag or telling gumby to reconsider their plans I am all for it. Cause at the end of the day it is going to be less of a hassle when I take a walk on the wild side of the hill.

 

 

"What is the mission of the climbing program at Rainier? "

 

Spot on ... except it should be

 

"What do WE want the mission of the climbing program at Rainier to be?"

 

After all it is OUR park.

 

 

And if WE do not speak up the decision will be made for us!!

 

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"Need" is a misused word. People were climbing Rainier LONG before there was any structure at Muir or ranger system. If newbies 'need' these things on Rainier, how do they muddle up every other Cascade volcano without them? I've never been atop Adams when there wasn't a person in jeans and a flannel shirt. Glacier Peak, Baker, Adams, St. Helens, Hood, Jefferson, North Middle and South Sis, Shasta, and Lassen: None of them have permanent shelters (aside from the cabin at 7000' on Shasta), much less shelters reserved for paying customers.

 

 

Yes people were climbing the mountain long before any structure on the mountain. I think the problem is one of numbers. Long ago climbing the mountain was rare. With low numbers of campsite users then there was no need for any kind of structure. Today lots of folks want to climb the mountain.

 

Restricting climbing permits is one way to preserve the place. Building structures in key locations for climbers is another way to minimize impact.

 

Whether we like it or not local population has grown and information on the mountain is available everywhere. Yesterdays solutions to problems may not apply today.

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Those with no claim, just do not get the visitation. And today that is what it is all about visitation. Baker and Jefferson just do not have the visitation and as such do not have the associated impacts.

 

That said the point of what to expect or mission is where it should be at. I'd like to walk down through Muir without having to step through someone's shit pile or have to see gumby get their ass pucked off the hill. If that means a ranger is up there teaching folks how to poop in a blue bag or telling gumby to reconsider their plans I am all for it. Cause at the end of the day it is going to be less of a hassle when I take a walk on the wild side of the hill.

 

Baker gets a lot of traffic. A lot. Hood, too.

 

But your last paragraph is really the crux, I think. My position is that putting facilities in place exacerbates the issue, because people expect it and then, for example, complain when the hut is full and we hear that "people want better facilities". Gee, I went to the pooper and had to wait in line, so I think there should be more. And while you are at it, how about hand sanitizer and running hot water and the toilet is stinky can't we make it flush and cots and linens would be nice in the shelter (like in Alps, eh)... The ultimate example is the clown who pedaled his pod off-trail through the Paradise meadows a few years back and was hassled about it. He responded by suing the NPS to force them to install a handicap-accessible commode at Muir.

 

I think that as soon as any sort of permanent structure or staffing is placed there will be a subset of users that clamors for more. And it's onto these folks that the revenue hounds glom.

 

We just don't have any tangible debate about this sort of thing anywhere else in the Cascades because the door hasn't been cracked open.

 

As for Muir in the summer, I'd like to be able to go up there and not have the guide services tell me "The DC is OUR route", I'd like to not trip over gear and climbers packed in like fish in weir, see ladders and ropes on the DC, see a growing collection of structures at Muir, helicopters ferrying propane, rangers, and other supplies up, being hassled about permits, etc.

 

And I recognize that I'm at one end of the spectrum on this and it's not going to be a quiet wilderness experience there. But enough is already too much with the infrastructure.

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Several folks have commented to me that we should consider having a way to submit anonymous questions to the representatives from Mt Rainier at the meeting. So, I am definitely considering doing this. Maybe we can have a box that people can drop an anonymous question in, and then we can try to present these during the question and answer portion of the meeting?

 

I understand that asking questions and making comments in a public forum can be very intimidating for a lot of people. Particularly if the park representatives are dressed in their official-looking park service uniforms. At the recent public meeting for the proposed increase in climbing fees for Denali, the park officials dressed in their street clothes. I particularly liked this approach....seemed a lot less intimidating.

 

We would really like to have folks turn out for this meeting. We are asking for RSVPs so that we can give the superintendent of Mt Rainier a head count of how many people we expect to have show up at that the meeting. If you are coming, which I hope you are, then please call us and let us know. If you are not comfortable giving your name, then we would still like you to call us so that we know how many people might attend...making up a name is fine with me.

 

For whatever it's worth, the park officials that I have spoken with in the past have all seemed like incredibly nice people as well appear very open to hearing what folks have to say about these issues related to Mt Rainier National Park.

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One of the big changes since the accident and institution of climbing fees is the decreasing usage of volunteer SAR teams. In some cases it may make some sense, rangers and guide who are living on the mountain certainly can get high quicker. There are a lot of volunteer SAR organization who are qualified and willing to help support the park. Then I'm not sure that part of the budget goes to SAR so it may be mute for this discussion.

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for the record Mt. Hood has at least 3 permanent structures above timberline, 2 of them in wilderness areas.

 

I'm on board with poop facilities/blue bag barrels for heavy traffic areas, no matter where, volcano or forest--it just makes sense. That or you limit people (already in conjunction with feces mitigation)

 

 

I stand corrected. Though I would contest the inclusion of Silcox Hut, in the middle of a groomed ski run, in this list.

 

Fewer people at tline than doing the muir hut conga. The need for the hut is to reduce impact; the cascades could use a few more selectively, a couple thousand campers a season leaves places looking like shit

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Fewer people at tline than doing the muir hut conga. The need for the hut is to reduce impact; the cascades could use a few more selectively, a couple thousand campers a season leaves places looking like shit

 

The assumption being that adding structure wouldn't affect the number of people. My position is that buildings, staff, and other structure (i.e. safety and comfort) cause an increase in headcount and the net effect on impact is negligible. It's like the freeways around Seattle: Building more/widening them doesn't ever help traffic much, it just allows more people to move out to the burbs and commute in.

 

I, for one, would not be as attached to Muir as a high camp for my many (failed) winter attempts were it not for the hut.

 

I've been going throught he numbers on the three documents from the NPS site. I'll post some more later, but if just 2/3 of the revenue from the climbing concession went back into the climbing program, they'd have the revenue they want to achieve from the $43 permit.

 

In short, the concession revenue has been used to pay for non-climbing related costs (the new visitor center, roof and paint at the National Park Inn at Longmire, electrical improvements at the Paradise Inn).

 

So if they want to increase our cost by 40% so they can continue to use the climbing program to fund other areas of the park, I'd like to see the cost to use those areas (namely hotel room costs) go up by a similar amount.

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It looks like the climbing program budgets for both Teton and Yosemite national parks are much higher than the climbing budgets for Mt Rainier.

 

It also looks like the climbing fees in those parks are essentially ZERO!...and, Rainier appears to have a lot more registered climbers than the Tetons....hmmm....

 

Why does it appear that are we being arbitrarily discriminated against in Washington and Alaska?

 

Doesn't seem fair to me...

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Interesting observations, thanks for that.

 

They do it because they can, and once fees get established it is fairly easy to keep raising them. I'm guessing that it also has something to do with the fact that rainier is a singular objective within the park unlike the others that have lots and lots of routes on a variety of mountains. Maybe it's easier to police/control climbers @ rainier, so they feel they can wring money out of folks?

 

This is raising more and more red flags- I think Loren makes some good points above also. Maybe I'll send another letter . . .

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@Raised: I just don't see *any* need for new buildings at Muir. It's a high camp in the wilderness on a volcano, not a village.

 

We ESPECIALLY don't need a new "client-guide" shelter. Let them camp in non-permanent tents.

 

I don't have the background on the upgrades to the public shelter; if this was necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the building or not. I do know that it was reported here that the one thing in the shelter that should always work, the emergency radio, was non-functional.

 

When it comes to wilderness and adventure, less is more.

 

I agree here. We should try to maintain our National Parks as wilderness areas as much as we can. My vote would be to take down all of the guide structures up at Muir. It is a joke to call these things "historic buildings".

 

For the safety of Mt Rainier's employees, it is probably o.k. to keep a small ranger building...although my gut feeling tells me that we should get rid of all of the structures at Camp Muir.

 

Someone told me that people are using the public structure as a bathroom in the winter...yuk!...and the rangers have to shovel this out in the spring. If the public can't take care of this structure properly, then maybe we should take it down too. My guess is that this one is there to stay, so maybe we should turn it into a day use only and emergency use shelter only. I see no reason to have a hotel up there.

 

People should have to stay in tents...clients, guides, and non-guided climbers. If you need a permanent structure to spend the night in and cook in to be able to climb the mountain, then maybe you shouldn't be climbing the mountain!

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A day use only shelter will suffer the same abuse an overnight shelter does. An overnight shelter and a ban on tent camping on the route eliminates tent sites and confines use to one specific location, or eliminates sprawl like you see in populated urban areas.

 

Even with no hut, there is more and more pressure on the park to increase the number of permits available. Regional population, and access to information on climbing the mountain are both on the rise. The number of folks who consider climbing one of their hobbies/sports is also greater than my memories of climbing in the 70s. Those are all pressures that you can't shove back in the bottle.

 

If you direct peoples interest to one route by providing a shelter you reduce use of other areas of the park. It keeps large numbers of people away from other cool natural features and locations.

 

The European hut system is there due to a long history of use/climbing in the mountains. I don't think we should have a duplicate, but the demand for use is growing whether we like it or not. Adopting some elements seen in historically high use mountain areas makes sense.

 

I would like to see money from climbing permits stay in the park for use by the climbing rangers. We already pay entrance fees. That money should cover other costs.

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A day use only shelter will suffer the same abuse an overnight shelter does. An overnight shelter and a ban on tent camping on the route eliminates tent sites and confines use to one specific location, or eliminates sprawl like you see in populated urban areas.

 

Even with no hut, there is more and more pressure on the park to increase the number of permits available. Regional population, and access to information on climbing the mountain are both on the rise. The number of folks who consider climbing one of their hobbies/sports is also greater than my memories of climbing in the 70s. Those are all pressures that you can't shove back in the bottle.

 

If you direct peoples interest to one route by providing a shelter you reduce use of other areas of the park. It keeps large numbers of people away from other cool natural features and locations.

 

The European hut system is there due to a long history of use/climbing in the mountains. I don't think we should have a duplicate, but the demand for use is growing whether we like it or not. Adopting some elements seen in historically high use mountain areas makes sense.

 

I would like to see money from climbing permits stay in the park for use by the climbing rangers. We already pay entrance fees. That money should cover other costs.

 

What you are saying here makes absolutely no sense when you look at the facts when related to Mt Rainier.

 

Acutally, officials at Mt Rainier told me that the demand for climbing permits is NOT INCREASING...and, they said that they do not expect it to. They also told me that they really do not turn people away for permits.

 

Also, camping on the snow does not seem to have a significant impact on the environment like camping in fragile meadows does as long as folks manage their human waste properly. I see nothing wrong with sprawling tents sites on the snow.

 

...and like I said earlier, if folks can't take proper care of the public shelter then maybe we should get rid of it.

 

I do however agree that we should concentrate the majority of climbers on the Muir route, which is already what is happening. Most people who climb Mt Rainier just want to get to the summit, and they don't really care which route they take. This point was raised by the public at the meeting years ago when they re-worked the fee, guiding, and permit systems the last time. Many members of the public seemed to want to confine the commercial guide services to the Muir route only so that the rest of the mountain could be left to those that wanted to have a wilderness experience away from the crowds of guided clients.

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The chances of folks not trashing a shelter just because it's for day use are just about zero. Rangers will still have to go over the day shelter with shovels.

 

Yes early in the season everybody is camping on snow, but that's not true later in the season. Lots of ascents occur after June, and there are a number of permanent camping platforms around the present hut.

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"What do WE want the mission of the climbing program at Rainier to be?"

 

After all it is OUR park.

 

 

And if WE do not speak up the decision will be made for us!!

 

I decided to call the local offices of our congressional representatives as well as our senator's offices to see if they were aware of any of these issues. It seemed like they were not. I was surprised how easy if was to get it touch with their staffers that apparently focus on these sorts of issues. I mentioned that I was surprised how easy it was to be able to speak with someone about this. I was told that not many people actually call their local elected official's offices to express their views about things that they would like to see congress and so forth do differently. So, when you do call them you are likely to be listened to and possibly make a difference.

 

One of the impressions that I have from doing a little research surrounding this upcoming meeting is that it is likely to be these high-ranking public officials and high-ranking NPS officials that can really make a difference in terms of both how the National Parks are funded as well as how these funds are allowed to be spent and managed by the actual individual parks. Although, the individual parks do seem to have a lot of say and control over how these funds are allocated and spent once they receive them.

 

I have invited these local public official's offices to have someone from each of their respective offices attend the public meeting this coming Wednesday, but I am not sure if they will be there or not. If they do decide to come, this could be a great opportunity to provide some direct input to them regarding how the public would like to see our money being allocated to and spent within our national parks.

 

- David

 

 

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Just a reminder that tomorrow 1/31/11 is the last day to send in public comments to Denali National Park regarding their proposed fee increase to $500 per climber. Here is their e-mail address:

 

DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov

 

You can check out the joint letter from the American Alpine Club, Access Fund, and American Mountain Guides Association to Denali National Park here:

 

http://www.americanalpineclub.org/pt/denaliandrainierclimbercommentsneeded

 

Tomorrow is also the last official day to send in comments to Mt Rainier National Park...but still please come to the public meeting in person on Weds since the park officials have told us that they will still record public comments at this meeting. Below is their website info:

 

http://www.nps.gov/mora/parkmgmt/climbingfee.htm

 

There is a link there to e-mail them.

 

Here is a similar letter from those 3 organizations to Mt Rainier National Park:

 

http://www.accessfund.org/atf/cf/%7B1F5726D5-6646-4050-AA6E-C275DF6CA8E3%7D/WA--MOUNT%20RAINIER%20FEE%20INCREASE_1.26.2011.pdf

Edited by MarmotMountain

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This meeting is tomorrow night!

 

Mt Rainier National Park Superintendent David Uberuaga will also now be joined by the Park Climbing Manager Stefan Lofgren and Park Environmental Protection Specialist Karen Thompson.

 

Please come out and join us for this important meeting.

 

Even if you can not make it by 6:30pm, please show up whenever you can to listen to and/or give comments and input to the park during the public comment portion of the night.

 

-David May

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Please post and let us know how it goes. I can't make it, but sent some emails and made a few calls.

Edited by zeroforhire

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I just realized that today is Groundhog Day...so I hope that all of you Marmots decide to come out of your hole, come to this meeting on Mt Rainier, and get the facts so you can provide some great comments and input to the park.

 

The meeting is tonight!

 

- David

 

Edited by MarmotMountain

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It was pretty informative and a very worthwhile discussion. A big thanks to David over at Marmot for organizing and really getting behind this meeting. A lot of answers were given and some misconceptions cleared up by Stefan and David (Uberuaga) for the 20-25 folks who showed up. Good to see some folks really fired up about the issue and letting the park service know their opinions.

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The most upsetting revelation for me in the meeting was Dave Uberuaga's assertion that the $350,000/year that the park keeps (20% goes to some NPS general fund) from the climbing concession revenue cannot legally be used to support the climbing program.

 

I'm going to verify this.

 

Either way, the climbing community could really help itself out here if we got a bit more voiciferous toward the right people.

 

It was informative, though I also found it to be depressing.

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Thanks to everyone that turned out for this meeting!

 

We had a great group of folks sharing lots of useful comments and input for Mt Rainier National Park.

 

I am not going to post an intricate and detailed account of all of the topics from the meeting right now, but I can certainly provide more details and answer questions about what was covered more specifically at the meeting if anyone is interested.

 

Everyone seemed to agree that there is already plenty of money being generated from climbers in Mt Rainer National Park to provide for the needs of the climbers.

 

Here are 2 of the main topics that seemed to come up over and over again:

 

A) The officials at Mt Rainier National Park want more money in order to hire more climbing rangers. Without more rangers, they can not provide for the safety of their own employees while traveling on the upper mountain. For their own safety, Park Climbing Rangers need to operate in teams of 2 at a bare minimum. 3 or 4 would be better in terms of safety. These types of park staff members cost a significant amount of money. The park says that Congress does not currently provide them the funds for these sorts of staff.

 

There appear to be two main ways for the park to raise the funding for these climbing rangers that they feel that they need:

 

1) Currently, Congress allows the park to establish and raise fees on climbers. This is what the park is proposing to do right now.

 

2) Congress would either need to provide more funding for Mt Rainier National Park and/or change the rules that the park is required to operate under so that all of the money that is already being paid to the park by the public through individual climber fees and commercial guide service fees can be used directly for the park's climbing program. Members of the public would need to call and write their congressional representatives as well as the offices of their local senators to ask them to make these changes.

 

B) The park says that they need more rangers to patrol and enforce the rules regarding sanitation and control of human waste on the upper mountain. Otherwise, park officials say that human waste and blue bags will start appearing scattered all over the mountain. The new climbing rangers that they would like to hire might also be able to accomplish some of this.

 

Their other option would be to cut the climbing ranger staff, and reduce ranger patrols on the mountain.

 

Many people at the public meeting seemed to feel that all of these climbing program costs should be paid for out of the park's base funding, and not by raising the fees on individual climbers.

 

 

I am going to try to get the names and contact information to post here of our various elected officials that are involved with Congress and the committees that make these decisions and rules for our National Parks so that interested people can call and/or write to them about these funding and fee issues. Check back here later for more info about this. Maybe someone can try to organize a coordinated effort here?

 

The Park also said that even though the official public comment period for this proposed fee increase has ended, you can still go to their website and send in more comments and input. Here again is the link to this section of the park's web site:

 

www.nps.gov/mora/parkmgmt/climbingfee.htm.

 

 

 

 

 

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There is something funny going on with these numbers. I don't understand how a prgram that was running successfully (received national recognition) and with adequate staff three years ago suddently cannot afford to put two rangers at Muir on a summer weekend, especially when they've gotten a budget increase of at least $71,000 for 2011 (the money allocated from concession revenue- Dave said they got $0 from that until 2010).

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The great majority of the increase comes in hiring 3 full time climbing rangers and 1 additional laborer to help supply the high camp (iirc) which is why I asked the question about having volunteers on the mountain.

 

I whole heartedly agree with Stefan's position that upper mountain patrols operate in pairs, but I think having a full blown climbing ranger at Paradise to sell me a permit is a little bit of overkill.

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