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What Is The Highest Peak In The USA? Photo topfacts

What does Denali mean?

Denali is the name of the highest peak in the US.

Denali is the Koyukon Athabaskan word meaning ‘the tall one,’ and the mountain holds great significance for indigenous Alaskans who have resided around it since time immemorial.

The native Koyukon Athabascan people call the mountain Denali, which is usually translated as "The Great One." However, linguist James Kari of the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, wrote in the book "Shem Pete’s Alaska" that the name is based on a verb theme meaning "high" or "tall."

Where is the highest peak in the US located?

Located in the Alaska Range, Denali and the mountains around it were formed from dramatic tectonic activity that continues to increase the mountain’s elevation little by little every year.

The park in which the mountain resides was established as Mount McKinley National Park on Feb. 26, 1917. The state of Alaska officially changed the name to Denali in 1975 and asked the federal government to do so too. However, when the park was tripled in size and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, the federal government retained the name Mount McKinley, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

READ MORE: Top 10 Highest Mountains in the UK

How tall is Denali?

What Is The Highest Peak In The USA?

Denali, once called Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America. Located in south-central Alaska, the mountain's peak is 20,310 feet (6,190 meters) above sea level, also making it the third highest of the Seven Summits — the highest mountains on each of the seven continents — following Mount Everest in Nepal and Aconcagua in Argentina. By one measure, it could be considered the third tallest mountain in the world.

Denali's height was recalculated at 20,310 feet in September 2015, based on GPS survey data; And that number was an update to a 2013 estimate of 20,237 feet (6,168 m), which was calculated using a remote-sensing technique called interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR). Both numbers placed Denali's summit lower than the original calculation of 20,320 feet (6,194 m) established in 1953 by Bradford Washburn, a mountaineer, photographer and cartographer.

In his book, "The Finest Peaks: Prominence and Other Mountain Measures" (Trafford, 2005), Adam Helman wrote, "The base to peak rise of Mount McKinley is the largest of any mountain that lies entirely above sea level." Based on its topographic prominence, or the distance between its summit and lowest contour line, Denali is the third most prominent peak after Mount Everest and Aconcagua in South America.

But Denali and Everest are both dwarfed by Mauna Kea in Hawaii. When measured from the ocean floor to its summit, that mountain is 33,476 feet (10,204 meters) tall. However, only 13,803 feet (4,207 meters) rise above sea level.

When Denali was remeasured in 2015, some believed that the mountain was shrinking due to the fact that it was quite a bit shorter than when measured in 1953. Actually, the mountain is growing by about .04 inches (1 millimeter) per year, according to NASA. This tiny but significant growth is due to the continuous impact of the Pacific and North American plates.

You can see it from 200 miles away

As Denali is very high, it’s visually visible from 200 miles (~322 km) away. Residents of Anchorage (130 miles away) can observe it, for example, as well as residents of Fairbanks (150 miles away). Only if the weather is good, of course.

Interesting Facts About Denali

Denali Is Gigantic

The US geological survey in 2015 announced that Mount Denali was 20,310 feet above sea level and not 20,320 feet high as earlier assumed. The earlier measurements were carried out using the photogrammetric approach. The topographical prominence of Denali is 20,156 feet and the topographical isolation of the mountain is 4,629 miles. Denali is also the 3rd most isolated peak on the planet and the 3rd most prominent peak in the world after Mount Everest and Mount Aconcagua.

READ MORE: Top 10 Highest Mountains in North America

It Is Always White At The Top

What Is The Highest Peak In The USA?

The summit of Mount Denali is permanently covered in snow, and some of the glaciers are more than 30 miles long. The longest glacier on the mountain is Kahiltna glacier, which is 44 miles long. The temperatures on the mountain are extremely cold reaching negative 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Wind chills can reach as low as negative 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mount Denali Has Automated Weather Stations

Mount Denali has weather stations installed by the National Park Service on Kahiltna glacier. The highest station is installed at 14,000 feet, and a lower station is installed at 10,200 feet, while a third one is installed at 7,200 feet above sea level at base camp. All the three stations collect data on snow accumulation, air temperature, and snowmelt, among other information throughout the year.

Who climbed to Denali?

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The first attempted summit of Denali was in 1903. Mountaineer Judge James Wickersham attempted to climb the mountain via Peters Glacier and the North Face. The route Wickersham tried to ascend wasn’t accomplished until 1963 due to avalanche dangers. The summit he attempted is now known as “Wickersham’s Wall.”

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. They ascended via the South Summit, a more common route today.

Dr. Frederick Cook, an adventurer, claimed to have performed the first successful verifiable ascent in 1906, but this was later revealed to be false.

Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum were the four members of the first party to climb Denali's prominent peak in 1913.

In 1947, Barbara Washburn was the first woman to summit Denali.

Bradford Washburn, her husband, became the first man to reach the summit twice.

Tom Choate, a 78-year-old climber, set the record for the oldest person to climb Everest in 2013.

Judge James Wickersham took the very first shot at climbing Denali back in 1903 but was unsuccessful.

James Wickersham tried to scale the peak via the North Face and Peters Glacier. Wickersham's Wall is the name given to it currently.

Anatoli Boukreev set a world record for the quickest ascent when he ascended the West Rib in 10 hours and 30 minutes from base to peak.

In 2019, over 1,200 climbers attempted to summit Denali. 60% of those climbers were from the United States; the other 40% came from 50 countries around the globe. 16% of them were women, too!

More than 35,000 people have attempted to summit Denali, but only a few reach the top. Roughly 60% of climbers reach the summit in any given year.

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