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Man Accused of Bringing 153 Hikers to Grand Canyon

Alleged organizer of illegal hike during pandemic is now facing criminal charges
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2021 9:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – A 150-person hike of the Grand Canyon isn't allowed in any case, and certainly not in the midst of a brutal pandemic. That's a rule a Washington state man knew and ignored, according to a criminal complaint filed in Arizona federal court. Joseph Mount, 34, is facing five misdemeanor counts for allegedly leading 153 people on an October rim-to-rim hike that not only violated COVID-19 restrictions limiting groups to 11 people but also normal size limits meant to preserve the landscape. Since 2014, such hikes have been limited to groups of no more than 30, reports the Daily Beast. Authorities say Mount lied to park officials about his plans for the hike, for which he charged $95 per person. Hikers, who were mostly unmasked, were transported to the site in vans and buses and urged to carry walkie-talkies so they could avoid looking like a group, per the complaint.

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In September, the permits office learned of a Facebook group for the hikers, which described them as coming from 12 states, per the complaint. Mount allegedly wrote that he was "determined to make this work for as many who want to go!" Rangers say plans continued even after Mount was directly warned about the size limit. He allegedly told hikers to "check in through me, not the front desk" when they arrived at their lodgings. A huge group was observed setting out on Oct. 24, with many saying they were part of a group of more than 100, per the complaint. "I didn't do it for profit," Mount tells the Beast. "With COVID and everything, people were just itching to get out." But he says he didn't violate any rule, as he wasn’t part of a group larger than 10 while in the park. Mount was recently named COO of a Washington medical group, per the Daily Chronicle, though the Beast reports he's no longer employed. (Read more Grand Canyon stories.)

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