A hiker walks a ridge in Kluane National Park’s St. Elias Mountains on June 10, 2017. New rules are in place for climbers aiming to summit Mt. Logan and other mountains in Kluane National Park. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

New rules in place for Mt. Logan climbers

Moratoriums in place on solo expeditions and winter climbs

New rules are in place for climbers aiming to summit Mt. Logan and other mountains in the icefields of Kluane National Park.

At 5,959 metres tall, Mt. Logan is Canada’s highest peak with Kluane being home to 20 of the nation’s tallest mountains.

Ed Jager, director of visitor experience with Parks Canada, confirmed on Jan. 16 Parks Canada has placed a moratorium on solo climbs of Mt. Logan and on winter expeditions between Nov. 15 and March 15 anywhere in the ice field ranges of Kluane National Park.

Permits to climb any of the 20 highest peaks in Canada located in the icefields of the park also now have a condition attached requiring a minimum of $100,000 in search and rescue insurance.

The changes come in light of safety concerns in recent years.

“We want to make sure people are safe,” Jager said, emphasizing the safety of climbers as well as emergency response staff was taken into consideration in deciding on the new rules.

The number of rescues has been increasing with eight rescues in the last seven years. As with all national park rescues the funding comes out of the Parks Canada budget, and thus is paid for by taxpayers, at a cost of anywhere between $60,000 and $100,000 for each rescue.

Similarly, the national parks service in the United States covers rescues, while other parts of the world vary in how rescues are paid for.

Jager said Parks Canada has been looking at making some changes over the last couple of years.

“Kluane is very unique,” Jager said, highlighting the extreme weather and isolation that can make rescues that much more difficult.

There’s no plans to bring in similar rules at other national parks, Jager said.

There typically have not been a lot of winter expeditions in the park. The 2018/2019 season saw just one where two climbers successfully summited Mt. Wood.

As for what the changes may mean for the upcoming season, Jager said that while he can’t predict the future he expects anyone who may have been planning a solo climb may find a group expedition to climb with.

That said, it’s impossible to know whether it will impact the number of climbs happening in the park. Approximately 35 groups — comprising about 100 people in total — make expeditions in the park annually with about a third of those looking to summit Mt. Logan.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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