Due to COVID-19, the National Parks Service has canceled the 2020 Denali and Mount Foraker climbing seasons. Registered mountaineers are eligible for full refunds.
Since the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, authorities have taken steps to reduce the spread of infection. Part of this initiative included the closing of some national and/or state parks, businesses, educational institutions and other establishments. State-operated park areas were also delegated for closure to governors, while federally-operated park closures were managed by the Federal Government and enforced by the National Park Service (NPS).
As part of the continued effort to slow the curve of infection, the National Park Service also canceled some climbing seasons including the 2020 Denali and Mount Foraker climbing seasons.
As of Friday, March 20, Denali National Park and Preserve has suspended issuance of climbing permits for any expeditions attempting an ascent of Denali or Mount Foraker for the 2020 mountaineering season. -NPS
Across the board, parks that remained open in the US for hikers and climbers closed park facilities like bathrooms, ranger stations and offices. Administrators of the Denali National Park and Preserve did the same.
Furthermore, the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station will be closed to the public until further notice. -NPS
The Denali and Mount Foraker climbing seasons usually span between late April and mid-July, with most expeditions being active between May and early June. Typical expedition activities for climbing Denali and other high altitude mountains include transport in small aircraft, the use of shared tents and equipment and other camp infrastructure.
Possible exposure to shared environments and equipment prompted concerns about possibly spreading the virus between climbers and expedition team members in a remote area, where medical resources are scarce. It also raises questions about how authorities would assist climbers if they found themselves infected and severely ill.
The primary reason for national and state park facility closures is to reduce the risk of government employees contracting COVID-19 from travelers, and to reduce their risk of infecting each other as well.
In light of these and other factors, such as the difficulty maintaining recommended hygiene protocols in a mountain environment, park officials have determined it is not feasible to adequately protect the health of mountaineering rangers, other emergency responders, pilots, and the climbing public at this time. – NPS
What This Means for Climbers
No permits have been issued for the 2020 Denali and Mount Foraker climbing seasons. However, climbers were still able to register for the 2020 climbing season and made payments toward their permits.
The National Park Service recognized these payments and stated that full refunds would be issued to registered climbers for the 2020 season.
All mountaineers currently registered to climb Denali or Mount Foraker will be entitled to a refund of their 2020 mountaineering special use fee and park entrance fee. Registered climbers do not need to request a refund, and they will be notified by email in the next several weeks when the refunds are processed. -NPS
Contacting NPS for Climbing Permit Refunds
Registered climbers do not have to contact NPS to receive their Denali permit refunds, or refunds for Mt. Foraker. However, if you have not yet received your climbing permit refund and have questions, you can contact Maureen Gualtieri at (907) 733-9103 or fill out the dedicated contact form; choose the “Permits” option as your category. Be prepared to provide your name, address, email, a subject line and fill out the message body field with your questions/concerns.