Facts about Mount Denali

10 Facts About Mount Denali

Mount Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, is the highest peak in the US and North America, and it is one of the symbols of Alaska. It used to have many names in the past though…

Mount Denali was the highest peak in Russia once

The Russian Empire sold Alaska to the US in 1867. Before that, Mount Denali was the highest peak in Russia! Its prominence is 20,194 ft (6,155 m), making it the highest mountain in North America. However, it is not even included in the top 100 highest mountains on Earth.

Mount Denali facts and statistics

The first ascent to Denali was claimed in 1906 but there was no reliable proof. In 1913, a group of professional climbers made the first successful and verifiable ascent. By the way, this mountain grows by ~1 mm (0.04 inches) annually, which means it has risen by an extra ~1 cm (0.4 inches) since then. Denali isn’t too dangerous to climb, the fatality rate here is ~0.3% only. For comparison, the fatality rate of Annapurna, the world’s most dangerous mountain, is about ~32%, more than 100 times higher.

Ascent to the Mount Denali

The 3rd tallest mountain on land

Really! It’s even taller than Everest if measured from the foot to the peak. Denali rises for about 18,000 feet (5,500 m) from the base to the summit, and Everest rises for about a 12,000-foot rise (3,700 m). This is because Everest’s foot is located at 7,000 feet (5,200 m) altitude. Technically, Denali is the third-highest mountain on land.

You can see it from 200 miles away

As Denali is very high, it’s visually visible from 200 miles (~322 km) away. Residents of Anchorage (130 miles away) can observe it, for example, as well as residents of Fairbanks (150 miles away). Only if the weather is good, of course.

Mount McKinley
Locals have been calling this mountain “Denali” even before it was renamed in 2015

Denali naming facts

This mountain is called Denali since 2015, this is the original name given to it by the native Koyukon people. This word means “high” or “tall”. During the time when the Russian Empire owned Alaska, the common name for this mountain was “Bolshaya Gora” which means “Big mountain”. In 1896, the mountain was renamed McKinley in order to support a prospective president William McKinley. Finally, President Barack Obama returned the mountain’s original name in 2015.

National park Denali facts

Nowadays, the mountain is the heart of Denali National Park. The park was renamed, as it was founded with the name McKinley National park. However, the park was renamed in 1975, 40 years before the mountain got its original name back. It was the first national park in Alaska, and the only one till 1980. Denali National park is larger than the state of New Jersey, it covers 9,446 sq miles (24,585 sq km).

Mount Denali
Mount Denali (McKinley)

Third-tallest of the “Seven Summits”

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven traditional continents. Mount Denali is ranked 3rd in this list (after Everest in Asia and Aconcagua in South America), as it is the tallest summit in North America.

Denali climate facts

Mount Denali is colder than Everest, the tallest peak on Earth. This is because the mountain is located at a distance of fewer than 1,000 miles from the Arctic Circle. The atmospheric pressure at the top of Denali is around 360 mm Hg which is less than 50% of normal pressure at sea level.

Denali national park
Denali National Park

Snow zone

Mount Denali is always white at the top because the snow on its top never melts. There are glaciers here as well, and some of them are more than 30 miles (~48 km) long. The longest one among them is Kahiltna glacier (44 miles or ~71 km long). The temperatures on the mountain summit are extremely cold reaching negative -75 °F (-59,5 °C).

Mount Denali climbing facts

In 1903, James Wickersham recorded the first attempt at climbing Denali, which was unsuccessful. In 1906, Frederick Cook claimed the first ascent, which was later proven to be false. The first verifiable ascent to Denali’s summit was achieved on June 7, 1913. In 1947, Barbara Washburn becomes the first woman to reach the summit while her husband Bradford Washburn becomes the first person to summit twice. In 1970, the first solo ascent was. In 1993, the first blind climber was to reach the ascent. In 2001 Galen Johnston, 11, becomes the youngest person to reach the summit. In 2013, Tom Choate, 78, breaks the record as the oldest person to reach the summit.

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