Rush for advanced backcountry permits in Glacier causes server to crash

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A hiker overlooks Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park last summer.

A surge of visitors trying to get an advanced backcountry campground reservation for this summer in Glacier National Park caused the server that takes campers’ money to crash.

On March 15 each year, the Park starts taking advanced backcountry reservations online. Last year, 1,600 people applied for permits on the first day. This year, 1,500 campers made the attempt in the first hour, said Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley. That, in turn, caused the pay.gov disk drive to crash as it couldn’t handle all the data all at once.

Pay.gov handles the payment portion of the transaction.

Alley said the pay.gov and the backcountry permit staff has, however, been able to analyze the data and has sorted it so people who were in the queue first should have priority.

“Backcountry staff merged that list with actual submissions data collected on March 15 and rearranged it by time stamp. This new list is being used to process advance reservations,” the Park said on its web site.

Alley said Pay.gov confirmed that the crash was “largely related to Glacier.”

In the meantime, she said, Pay.gov was looking at ways of boosting its drive capacity.

The Park can’t, at least right now, confirm reservations.

“Due to the delays associated with the Pay.gov system failure and the extremely high number of applications received, backcountry staff cannot provide individual applicants with the status of their applications. Successful applicants will receive an email with either a backcountry permit itinerary or a rejection notice once their application is processed,” the Park said on its website. “We are sorry for any distress this may have caused and appreciate your patience as we begin the real work of processing advance reservation applications.”

Alley said it’s tough to say whether the surge in reservations will mean another busy summer. She said, in general, people are simply planning more. Last summer, Parks Canada allowed free entrance to all its parks, which also a resulted in a big spike of Canadian and other travelers to Glacier, particularly on the east side, where most Canadians enter the Park.

Last year, visitation to St. Mary was up 43 percent overall and Glacier saw more than 1 million visitors in the month of July alone — a new record for any western park. In 2017, about 34,000 people camped in the backcountry, down 11 percent over the previous year. The drop was largely due to wildfires, which closed several campgrounds and popular routes in August and September.

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