The cost of Mount Rainier climbing permits increased by $13 to $43 on Tuesday to fund the national park's climbing program.
The 43.3 percent increase in the yearly fee was expected among climbers, and park assistant superintendent Randy King said it was essential for maintaining safety and keeping the upper mountain clean.
To minimize the fee increase, the park issued a special rate for climbers 24 and younger, increased the part of franchise fees allocated to the climbing program and dropped its plan to raise the fee annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
“We made an effort to keep the cost down,” King said.
The youth climbing fee will be $30. Park officials say 5 percent to 10 percent of climbers each year are 24 or younger.
Last year, $19,000 of the franchise fees collected from park vendors went to the climbing program. That amount will increase to $71,000 starting this year.
The park can periodically increase the climbing fee based on actual costs, but no increase can exceed the Consumer Price Index without reopening the public comment process.
“At the end of the day nobody wants to pay more money,” said Eric Simonson, director of International Mountain Guides, who expressed displeasure with the fee increase at a public meeting. “But most people bought into the reason the park wanted to increase the fee and they deserve credit for that.”
About 10,000 people a year climb the 14,411-foot mountain, and fees from the permits pay for the climbing program, primarily the salaries of the rangers. However, park superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the fee covered only about 80 percent of the expense of the climbing program.
The park began analyzing how its climbing rangers were trained in 2009 when one was hurt after falling into a crevasse.
Funds generated from the higher fee will allow seasonal rangers to go on duty earlier in the year, giving them the opportunity to receive more training before climbing traffic begins to increase.
“It will be good for new employees and returning employees,” King said.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure