Interesting facts about Denali


Denali (also known as Mount McKinley, its former official name) is the highest mountain peak in North America at 6,190 meters (20,310 feet) above sea level.

Denali is the third highest of the Seven Summits (the highest peaks of the 7 continents) following Mount Everest in Nepal and Aconcagua in Argentina.

With a topographic prominence of 6,144 meters (20,156 feet), it is the third most prominent peak in the world.

It is also the northernmost mountain above 6,000 meters (19,685 meters) elevation in the world.

Located in the Alaska Range in the interior of the U.S. state of Alaska, Denali is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.


The upper half of Denali is permanently covered with snow and has five massive glaciers on its slopes. The longest glacier is the Kahiltna Glacier with a length of 71 kilometers (44 miles).

The mountain is characterized by extremely cold weather. Temperatures as low as −59.7 °C (−75.5 °F) and wind chills as low as −83.4 °C (−118.1 °F) have been recorded by an automated weather station located at 5,700 meters (18,733 feet).


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, by climbers Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum, who went by the South Summit.

first ascent to Denali

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 1951, Bradford Washburn pioneered the West Buttress route, considered to be the safest and easiest route, and therefore the most popular currently in use.

In 1970, first solo ascent by Naomi Uemura.

In 1972, first descent on skis down the sheer southwest face, by Sylvain Saudan an extreme skier, dubbed “skier of the impossible.”

sylvain saudan

In 1979, First ascent by dog team achieved by Susan Butcher, Ray Genet, Brian Okonek, Joe Redington, Sr., and Robert Stapleton.

In 1993, Joan Phelps is the first blind climber to reach the ascent.

In 2001 Galen Johnston, 11, becomes the youngest person to reach the summit.

In 2013, Alaska resident Tom Choate, 78, breaks the record as the oldest person to reach the summit.

In June 2015, a survey team led by Blaine Horner placed two global positioning receivers on the summit to determine the precise position and elevation of the summit. The summit snow depth was measured at 4.6 meters (15 feet). The United States National Geodetic Survey later determined the summit elevation to be 6,190 meters (20,310 feet), not 6,194 meters (20,320 feet), as measured in 1952 using photogrammetry.

denali peak

Because of its far northern latitude of 63 degrees, Denali has lower barometric pressure than the world’s other high mountains.

Denali, in addition to being the highest peak in the northern arctic latitudes, has the highest base-to-summit elevation of any mountain on Earth, rising 5,490 meters (18,000 feet) from its base. Everest, by contrast, is only a 3,660-meter-climb (12,000-foot) from the glaciers at its base.

In a typical year 1,300 people try to climb Denali.

An estimated 32,000 climbers have attempted Denali with about a 50% success rate.

denali climbing

One in 200 climbers who attempt to climb the mountain dies trying, but many more lives are saved by the efforts of the Park Service rangers and volunteers. Unlike Everest, Denali has a staff of trained experts who patrol the mountain to educate and to take care of mountaineers faced with the extremes of arctic mountaineering.

The native Koyukon people call the mountain “Denali” which is usually translated as “The Great One” and sometimes “The High One.”


During the Russian ownership of Alaska, the common name for the mountain was Bolshaya Gora which is the Russian translation of Denali.

The mountain had been unofficially named Mount McKinley in 1896 by a gold prospector, and officially by the United States government in 1917 to commemorate William McKinley, who was president of the United States from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. The president was, however, from Ohio and never even visited the state of Alaska.

Alaska in 1975 requested that the mountain be officially recognized as Denali, as it was still the common
name used in the state.

It took until 2015 for the U.S. government to recognize the name officially. President Barack Obama approved the change to Denali in August 2015.

In November, 2012 a 25 cent piece depicting the mountain and the park was released by the US Mint.