Nearly a month after an avalanche of interest overwhelmed the Mount St. Helens climbing permit system, sales start again Monday morning.
The Mount St. Helens Institute has a new processing vendor and says it’s ready to accommodate the crush of hikers eager to climb to the 8,366-foot crater rim. It is also scrapping a plan to hold back tickets to sell later.
The institute thought it was ready Feb. 1, when sales traditionally begin. However, when 11,000 people — more than three times as many as last year — tried to buy permits, the system imploded.
A few who had success obtaining the $22 permits said they persisted for more than 40 minutes, continually refreshing their screen while using multiple browsers and devices. About 20 percent of the available permits sold before officials were forced to stop sales.
In an effort to streamline the process this time, people can register in advance, said institute director Ray Yurkewycz.
Permits go on sale Monday at 9 a.m. at mshi.recaccess.com.
The institute originally planned to hold back 10 percent of permits for each day and make them available for sale on the final day of the month preceding the climb. This was a new approach started after numerous hikers complained about the difficulty to get permits if they missed the first day of sales. Summer weekends and Mother’s Day weekend typically sell out in a matter minutes. Summer weekdays are often gone after a few days
The Feb. 1 system crash led the institute to scrap plans to hold back permits. However, permits can sometimes be acquired at purmit.com, where hikers can resell their unused permits at face value.
Virginia-based RecAccess has been hired to handle transaction processing starting Monday. RecAccess, which replaces Discover Your Northwest, is used by National Wildlife Refuges across the country.
Permits remain available for all but one day (Sept. 19) this summer. And more than 60 percent remain available for Mother’s Day weekend. The only other days that sold out during the initial sale were June 6, Sept. 25-26 and 28 and Oct. 1.
Here’s a list of how many permits are available for each day courtesy of the institute:
Permits are required for each hiker who climbs above 4,800 feet on the volcano. They are limited to 500 per day April 1-May 15, and 100 per day May 16-Oct. 31.