SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A 20-year-old Indiana woman who hiked Mount Rushmore at night has been released after pleading guilty to one federal charge of illegally climbing the national memorial.
Molly Venderley appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Rapid City, S.D., on Monday, Jan. 4, a day after a park ranger coaxed her down from the talus pile below George Washington's lapel, some 200-feet up the colossal stone monument in the Black Hills.
Venderley told the ranger she'd climbed the mountain at night to elude detection.
"When questioned, Vernderley knew the park was closed and that she was not allowed to climb Mount Rushmore, which is why she did it at night," according to a ranger report filed in U.S. District Court in South Dakota.
Venderley was "sober, cooperative and uninjured" according to law enforcement reports, but a ranger found a bottle of champagne and a fake ID after searching Venderley's vehicle in the memorial's parking lot.
Two female companions with what reports described as a "large amount of camping gear" were also questioned at the scene, but Venderley maintained she hiked the memorial alone.
Venderley appeared in court by video Monday and pleaded guilty to a single charge of hiking the mountain featuring the carved likenesses of four U.S. presidents, agreeing to pay a $1,250 fine. She was ordered released by U.S. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollman.
More than 2 million people visited Mount Rushmore in 2020, according to new data from the National Park Service.
Last year, a man earned a $1,500 fine for scaling George Washington's head.