North America's highest peak still awes visitors to Denali National Park.
Named in 1896 by a gold prospector in honor of presidential candidate (and gold-standard proponent) William McKinley, Mount McKinley dominates the rugged landscape of central Alaska, casting a spell over grizzly bears and caribou, backpackers and bird-watchers alike. The reward for those who heed the siren call and brave the storm-battered slopes of North America’s highest peak? A view one early mountaineer described as “looking out the windows of Heaven.”
BACK TO BASICS Alaska calls the peak by its Athabascan name, Denali, or “the High One.” Politicians from Ohio, McKinley’s home state, have blocked efforts to change the name at the national level.
A LEG UP Mount Everest boasts the world’s highest summit at 29,035 feet, but McKinley has a greater rise, soaring 18,000 feet from its base to its 20,320-foot peak. In comparison, Everest climbs 12,000 feet from the Himalayan plateau.
HIGH-ALTITUDE HOAX In 1906, Dr. Frederick Cook declared himself the first to ascend McKinley. Nearly a century later, his victory photo was found to have been taken less than a quarter of the way up, on “Fake Peak.”
DEEP FREEZE In 1967, the first men to summit McKinley in winter estimated that the windchill temperature dropped as low as 148 degrees below zero.
Photography courtesy of Nic McPhee/Wikimedia Commons
This article was first published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Mount McKinley is located in Denali National Park, about 150 miles north of Anchorage. (907) 683-2294, nps.gov/dena .