Denali, once known as Mount McKinley, is one of the famous mountains in the world. It may not be as tall as the likes of Mount Everest or K2, but it is the tallest mountain peak in all of North America and is almost a thousand feet taller than another iconic peak: Mount Kilimanjaro. Located in the state of Alaska, where many more of North America's tallest peaks can be found, Denali represents a big challenge to any climbers or mountaineers.
The Koyukon people of Alaska who have lived in the area near the mountain for many centuries had always called it Denali. It was in 1896 that a gold prospector came upon the site and decided to call the mountain Mount McKinley, after William McKinley, who was a presidential candidate at the time and later became the 25th President of the United States. From 1917 to 2015, the official name of Mount McKinley remained, but in August of 2015, the mountain was given its much older name of Denali out of respect to the Alaskan natives.
Ascents of Denali
The first known surveys of Denali occurred around the turn of the 20th century, with the first attempted ascent occurring in 1903 by Judge James Wickersham. Unfortunately for him, Wickersham chose a very dangerous route that would not be successfully climbed for another six decades, so his ascent was not successful. In 1906, Dr. Frederick Cook, an American explorer who is also well-known for allegedly reaching the North Pole, claimed to have made it to the top.
However, Cook’s story of his ascent was later deemed to be false, and the world had to wait until June 7 of 1913, when a party led by Harry Karstens and Hudson Stuck made it to the summit of Denali, with one of the men who made it to the peak, Robert Tatum, claiming that the view was "like looking out of the windows of Heaven". Over the years, many other ascents have successfully made it to the top of Denali, with different parties choosing different routes.
Elevation of Denali
Denali has the highest elevation of any mountain in North America. It has an elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190 m) above sea level. This means that Denali has an elevation almost double the elevation of the United States’ highest city, which is Leadville. Located in Lake County, Colorado Leadville has an elevation of 10,152 feet (3,094 m). When compared with other major mountains around the world like Mt Everest, which has an elevation of 29,029 feet (8,848 m) or K2, which has an elevation of 28,251 feet (8,611 m), Denali isn’t quite in the same league of elevation, but it does have the distinction of having the world’s largest vertical rise.
Along with having the highest elevation in the United States and North America, Denali is also classed as the third most prominent and isolated mountain peak on Earth. The second highest mountain in North America is Mount Logan, located in the Yukon, which has an elevation of 19,551 feet (5,959 m), while the second highest mountain in the United States is Mount Saint Elias, which is also found in Alaska and has an elevation of 18,009 feet (5,489 m). The state of Alaska plays home to many other very high mountains, with Mount Whitney of California being the highest mountain in the United States outside of Alaska, with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 m).
Elevation of Denali Camps and Landmarks
Any trip to Denali and ascent of the mountain involves stopping at various camps and landmarks along the way. Experienced climbers and mountaineers are familiar with these camps, each of which is featured at a relatively high elevation too. Denali Base Camp, for example, has an elevation of 7,200 feet (2,195 m) and is located at the Kahiltna Glacier. It’s important to note that all heights above 8,000 feet (2,500 m) can start to induce altitude sickness in certain people, and the air gets thinner and colder as the ascent continues.
Denali Base Camp is naturally where most treks up Denali begin, with lots of climbers gathering at this spot almost every single day. Camp 1 has an elevation of 7,800 feet (2,377 m), Camp 2's elevation is much higher at 11,200 feet (3414 m), and Camp 3 is yet higher with an elevation of 14,200 feet (4328 m). The final major landmark along the ascent of Denali is High Camp, which is located at an elevation of 17,200 feet (5,243 m).