The seven summits, the highest peaks of the 7 continents: Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Vinson, Carstensz! Trips, Statistics & information!
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Denali

Summit of North America, 6194m

                 

 

 

Welcome to the 'coldest' mountain in the world! Denali is just as beautiful as it is dangerous. In the heart of Alaska, rising more than 20,000 feet from sealevel. This is where Mrs Fahrenheit and Mr Celsius meet secretly at night: -40 degrees...

 

Below are some facts, check the menu left for tips and more.



Facts & Figures
Original name

Denali (The High One) is the Native (Athabascan) American word for North America's highest peak, Mount McKinley in the mountain chain called the Alaska Range. Denali was renamed Mount McKinley for William McKinley, a nominee for president, by the Princeton graduate and gold prospector, William Dickey. Dickey was one of the hundreds of prospectors seeking gold in the 1896 Cook Inlet stampede. He had written an article for the New York Sun where he described the mountain as the highest in North America at over 20,000 feet.

"When later asked why he named the mountain after McKinley, Dickey replied that the verbal bludgeoning he had received from free silver partisans had inspired him to retaliate with the name of the gold-standard champion. "
Mt. McKinley: The Pioneer Climbs
by Terris Moore

Since the turn of the 19th century, the official name of this great mountain has not rested in peace. In 1914, following his historic first ascent of the mountain in 1913, Hudson Stuck wrote in the preface of his book, The Ascent of Denali: "Forefront in this book, because forefront in the author's heart and desire, must stand a plea for the restoration to the greatest mountain in North America of its immemorial native name."

In 1980, the name Mount McKinley National Park was officially changed to Denali National Park and Preserve. The State of Alaska Board of Geographic Names has also officially changed the mountain's name back to Denali. Negotiations continue today to officially return the original native name to this magnificent mountain. (from the Denali park website)

Routes There are many different routes up Denali some extremely technical. Denali's most used route is the West Buttress route (80% of all climbs), which has seen more than 20,000 climbers, Roughly 50% of the climbers have reached the summit.
Until 1997, about 400 accidents were reported on the West Buttress route, which claimed the lives of 34 climbers, mostly while descending. 

"The fact that the West Buttress route is not technically difficult should not obscure the need to plan for extreme survival situations. Of course, some climbers manage to get up and down in perfectly nice, but rare period of weather; when back home, they encourage others to climb this 'easy walkup' of a mountain. Little do they realize that it was only by sheer luck they weren't trying to keep their tent up in the middle of the night in a 60mph wind at 40° below zero, with boots on and ice axe ready in case the tent suddenly imploded. Because of the non-technical reputation of the popular West Buttress route, it is a terribly underestimated climb."
— Peter H. Hackett, M.D., from "Surviving Denali" by Jonathan Waterman

Height 6194 meters or 20,320 feet. The difference in the barometric pressure at northern latitudes affects acclimatization on Denali and other high arctic mountains. Denali's latitude is 63° while the latitude of Everest is 27°. On a typical summit day in May, the Denali climber will be at the equivalent of 22,000' (6900M) when compared to climbing in the Himalayas in May. This phenomenon of lower barometric pressure at higher elevations is caused by the troposphere being thinner at the poles.
Location: 63° 07' N, 151° 01' W
First Ascent: The lower north peak was first climbed on April 3, 1910 by a group of climbers bringing  a 6 by 12 foot American flag and a 14 foot spruce pole.
Denali's higher South Summit was first climbed by Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper and Robert Tatum on June 7, 1913.  The first ascent of the West Buttress route was made in 1951, by the party of Dr Bradford Washburn, well known for his excellent photographs of the Alaska Mountains
The first winter ascent was made by Dave Johnston, Ray Genet & Art Davidson; the title of their book says it all: 'Minus 148°'. Read this before you even mention the words Winter and Denali in one sentence…

See this excellent Denali park page for more historical facts and a timeline of ascents.

Climbing Seasons Snow and weather conditions for climbing major Alaska Range peaks are usually best from May through July. Colder minimum temperatures and strong northwest winds commonly occur in May. Late June and July are warmer but more unsettled. By late July, travel on the lower glaciers is made difficult by melting snow bridges over crevasses and by more inclement weather with heavier snowfall and increased avalanche danger. The highest success rates occur in June. April is an excellent month for many of the lower peaks with conditions often cold and clear while the winter extremes still linger on Denali and Mt. Foraker. The coldest weather on Denali is found from November through April with average temperatures ranging from -30F to -70F recorder at the 19,000 foot level. It is not uncommon to find it -50F at the 17,200 foot camp in early May.

Winter climbing in Denali borders on the ridiculous more because of its unfathomable risks than because of its mountaineering challenge. Some of the world's best climbers have either disappeared or perished form literally being flash frozen! In winter months, the jet stream, +100mph (160 km/h), will often descend over the mountain's upper flanks. Combine this wind with the naturally caused venturi effect that doubles wind velocity in such areas as Denali Pass and you will find one of the most hostile environments on this planet. The combined effect of ferocious wind and extreme cold easily and routinely send the wind chill off the charts.

(from the Denali park website).

 

Please take time to read this excellent article (PDF, 100kb) South Districs Ranger Daryl R. Miller has written about the Alaskan outback. Do not underestimate the mountains or outback of Alaska. Published here with permission from Daryl.