As rescue costs soar, Parks Canada sets new rules for climbing Canada's highest peak

Parks Canada has announced new rules for climbers attempting to tackle Canada's highest peak, after it had to perform several dangerous and expensive rescue missions in recent years.

There's now a moratorium on solo climbing on Mount Logan, as well as winter expeditions on the mountain or anywhere else in Yukon's Kluane National Park.

Climbers are also now required to have insurance to cover search-and-rescue costs.

"We really wanted to improve the safety both for folks visiting Kluane as well as the safety for our rescue responders," said Ed Jager, with Parks Canada.

"We've also taken all three of these steps to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers for the rescues that have been taking place in Kluane."

According to Jager, there have been eight rescue missions in Kluane in the last seven years. Each typically costs about $60,000 to $100,000 — and Canadian taxpayers have been footing the bill.

"The normal practice in Parks Canada, and across the entire system, has been the rescue was part of the services that we provided to all of our visitors," he said.

That practice was starting to make less sense in Kluane, where it's easier for people to get into trouble and harder to get them out. 

Expeditions on the climb

Mount Logan and the icefield ranges in Kluane National Park are remote, forbidding — and increasingly popular.

According to Jager, about 35 groups, or roughly 100 people, head out each year on expeditions into the park. About a third of them go to tackle Mount Logan, which is 5,959 metres high.

Parks Canada

Two years ago, a Quebec woman made headlines by becoming the first woman to summit Mount Logan in a solo trek — only to call for a rescue on her way back down.

And the year before, an Argentine climber found herself stranded on the mountain after a large earthquake. She waited four days at high altitude before a high-risk rescue.   

Other rescues receive less publicity, but the costs and risks are similar.

Jager describes the new rules as a work in progress. 

"We want to make sure that the tools we've put in place are going to work effectively," he said.

"And you know, my assumption is that we'll be adjusting them and making them work best for both Parks Canada, and our visitors."