Mountain climbers will soon face an additional hurdle on their way up Oregon’s tallest mountain: permits.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday that new climbing permits will be required to scale Mount Hood starting Jan. 1, 2024.
Permits, which will not be limited by number and don’t need to be booked far in advance, will cost either $20 for a single trip or $50 for an annual pass. They will be required for anyone traveling above 9,500 feet on the mountain – about 3,500 feet higher than Timberline Lodge.
Unlike many other outdoor recreation permits in Oregon, the new climbing permits are not designed to limit the number of people allowed on the mountain. Instead, the goal appears to be education, as well as funding for more climbing patrols, safety measures and environmental protections in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
“Mt. Hood is an iconic mountain, but it has a delicate alpine environment and summiting it is a technical climb,” Meta Loftsgaarden, supervisor for the national forest, said in a news release. “The climbing permit will help improve safety for climbers while protecting the natural resources of this iconic place.”
Forest officials first proposed the permits in June 2022, but delayed implementation until 2024. The decision followed an increase in the number of inexperienced climbers on Mount Hood, as well as a number of injuries and fatalities on the way to the summit – including many involving climbers with experience. Until now, climbers have been able to scale the mountain after filling out a free wilderness permit, and while many people first go through training with groups like Mazamas, there is no skill requirement to make the climb.
“Every year around 10,000 people attempt to climb Mt. Hood. In spring and summer, it is not uncommon for visitors with little or no mountaineering experience to attempt to climb the 11,240-ft. peak, highlighting the need for more climber education and trained staff on the climbing route,” the Mt. Hood National Forest said in the news release.
In addition to funding more climbing rangers and patrols, the permit fees will help fund sanitary and infrastructure improvements on the mountain, the national forest said. Permits will also provide climbers with better education about safety and the risks associated with making a technical climb of that magnitude.
— Jamie Hale
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