Seven Summits: Mt. McKinley

Mount McKinley towers about Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, USA. It is the highest mountain peak in North America and in the United States. Its summit reaches the elevation of 20,320 above sea level.

Currently, the name of Mt McKinley is under dispute. The Koyukon Athabaskan people, who inhabit the area around the mountain, refer to the peak as Dinale or Denali, meaning "The High One". In the 1890s, a gold prospector named it "McKinley" as political support for the then presidential candidate William McKinley of Ohio. According to the Alaska Board of Geographic Names, the name is Denali, but the United States Board of Geographic Names has it listed as McKinley.

The first successful summit of Mt. McKinley was in 1913 and was led by Hudson Stuck. The first recorded attempt took place in 1903 by James Wickersham. The route he attempted was Perters Glacier and the North Face, which is now known as the Wickersham Wall. The route has tremendous avalanche danger and was not successfully climbed until 1963. The historical first European sighting of Mt. McKinley happened on May 6, 1794. George Vancouver was surveying the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet and saw a "distant stupendous mountain".

According to Robert Tatum, a climber who reached the summit of Mt. McKinley, "the view from the top of Mount McKinley is like looking out the windows of Heaven!"

Today the mountain is regularly climbed. In 2003, around 60% of the climbers attempting to summit reached the top. Currently, the mountain has claimed 108 lives of climbers.

Mt. McKinley was formed by uplifted tectonic pressure and erosion pushing and pulling upon the plates beneath North America. This pressure has given Mt. McKinley two significant summits. The South Summit is the higher summit at 20,320. The North Summit, at 19,470 feet elevation, is rarely climbed, except by those on the routes of the north side of the massif. The mountain has five large glaciers along the slopes: Peters Glacier, Muldrow Glacier, Traleika Glacier, Ruth Glacier and Kahiltna Glacier.

Interestingly, Mt. McKinley has a longer climb to the summit than Mt. Everest, but Mt. Everest summit is higher at 29,029 feet. The rise of Mt. McKinley is 18,000 feet, compared to Mt. Everest at 12,000 feet. The mountain is characterized by extreme cold weather, and many climbers use it to practice for Mt. Everest. Temperatures reach as low as -75.5 F and windchills as low as -118 F.


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