Rock climbing is soaring in popularity so it’s not surprising that the occasional rebel will attempt to scale the faces at Mount Rushmore. One Michigan man recently made the illegal climb, but the result wasn’t quite what he expected.
On August 19, 2020, Ayman Doppke reached the top of the iconic carving and climbed onto George Washington’s head. He was spotted by law enforcement officers before tumbling down the cliff, landing 100 feet below the base of the monument. The Charlotte Observer reported that Doppke told officials he saw and disregarded the warning signs posted that it “federally closed area.” He admitted to climbing around the razor wire to get to the top of the monument, documents said.
“Doppke then stated that he figured rangers were going to try and catch him after everyone saw him on top so he attempted to get down the steepest and most dangerous route in order to get out of there quicker, which ultimately led to him falling some 25 feet before tumbling down a loose gravel slope,” officials said in the court documents.
An officer eventually caught up with an injured Doppke who received medical treatment on the spot, but refused to be transported to a hospital. He was arrested and taken to a local jail until his court appearance the following day.
Doppke appeared in federal court in Rapid City, South Dakota, court Thursday (August 20) where he plead guilty and was fined $1500.
Doppke’s Mount Rushmore incident stands out due to his fall off of the head of our nation’s first president, park official say that numerous incidents happen every year.
“People are drawn for unknown reasons to disregard the regulations and climb up the sculpture,” park spokeswoman Maureen McGee-Ballinger told the Associated Press in 2012. Many tourists simply want to get as close as possible to the faces by crossing marked barriers that are intended to keep them from reaching the area directly under the historic carvings. But, others (like Ayman Doppke) take extreme measures to reach the monument.
In 2019, a barefoot Nebraska woman free-climbed the face of the monument, stopping just shy of the top when a park ranger talked her down. The 30-year-old mother of two young children was fined $1,000 and sent on her way.