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News / Sports / Outdoors

Mount St. Helens Institute to resurrect climbing permit portal

Nearly 17,000 people tried to buy permits in first hour on Feb. 1

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 22, 2018, 6:00am

The Mount St. Helens Institute is relaunching its climbing permit system nearly four weeks after rampant demand crippled this season’s first online sales event.

Starting at 9 a.m. Monday, those hoping to climb the famous volcano will have another chance to buy a 2018 climbing permit. The permits are available from April 1 to Oct. 31, at a cost of $22 per climber, at the Institute’s website.

“There was definitely a lesson learned last time — I don’t think one we could have predicted, but it gave us an idea of the real scale of demand out there,” said Ray Yurkewycz, the Institute’s executive director. “We’ve gone with a company that can handle this scale.”

Yurkewycz said 4,000 to 5,000 people visited the Institute’s website to purchase climbing permits in the first hour last year. This year, 15,000 to 17,000 people visited in the first hour.

For the latest round of sales, the Mount St. Helens Institute has contracted services from a new transaction processor in hopes of avoiding the lengthy delays consumers experienced when they tried to buy tickets on Feb. 1, when tickets initially went on sale.

The new vendor RecAccess, is described in a news release from the Institute as “a user-friendly, online permit service that is currently being used by National Wildlife Refuges across the United States.”

“The RecAccess Team wants climbers to spend nominal time online obtaining permits and more time on the volcano,” the release reads.

About 20 percent of the 2018 climbing permits were purchased on Feb. 1. The remaining 80 percent will go on sale next Monday. To offer some flexibility to would-be climbers, the institute originally planned to retain 10 percent of each day’s permits this season and put them out for sale a month before the day of the climb. But in light of the complications experienced on the first sale date, the institute will make all remaining permits available on Feb. 26.

Every season, demand to climb the volcano outstrips the availability of permits, so there is no guarantee of securing an ideal date or number of permits.

Permits are required to climb above the 4,800-foot mark year round.

Permit sales fund the maintenance of toilets, parking and campsites at Climber’s Bivouac at the volcano. Proceeds also support climber customer service and fund volunteer and youth education programs at Mount St. Helens.

More information is available at the institute’s website, mshinstitute.org, or by calling 360-449-7883.

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Columbian staff writer