Interesting Facts About Denali


Do you know any interesting facts about Denali? At 20,310 feet / 6190 meters, Denali is the highest point in North America. Located in the Alaska Range in Denali National Park and Preserve, Denali is a legendary summit that captures the imagination of every mountain enthusiast.

Denali | Pixabay Image
Denali | Pixabay Image

Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about Denali:

  • Denali is the 3rd highest of the Seven Summits – behind Everest and Aconcongua.
  • Denali ranks 3rd in topographic prominence in the world. Its prominence is 20,156 feet/ 6,144 meters. When measured from base to summit, Denali is roughly 18,000′. Compare that to Everest’s base to summit measurement of 12,000′ and Denali is a bigger mountain.
  • Denali has a topographic isolation of 4,629 miles / 7,450 km.
  • Five main glaciers flow off of Denali: 1. Peters Glacier on the NW, 2. Muldrow Glacier on the NE, 3. Traleika Glacier on the E, 4. Ruth Glacier on the SE, and 5. Kahlitna Glacier on the SW. The Kahlitna is the longest glacier at 44 miles long.
  • Humans have been in the Denali area for roughly 12,000 years.
  • Approximatley 32,000 people have tried to climb Denali. The mountain sees about a 60% success rate.
  • A weather station at 18,733 feet (5,710 m) recorded a record low temp of -75.5 F in 2003. Add in a wind speed of 18.4 mph and you get a North American record windchill of -118.1F. Thermometers have recorded down to -100F.
  • In 2015, the elevation of Denali was recalculated by GPS Survey Data giving it the current elevation of 20,310 feet / 6190 meters. According to NASA, the mountain grows by 0.04 inches / 1 mm per year.
  • In 2012, the US Mint stamped an image of Denali and the Park on a 25 cent piece.
Denali | Pixabay Image
Denali | Pixabay Image

Denali has gone through numerous name changes, here’s a quick look:

  • Originally the mountain was named Denali (or a variation) by the Koyukon Athabaskan Natives, which means The High One or The Great One.
  • During Russian ownership, the mountain was called Bolshaya Gora meaning “Big Mountain.”
  • During the 1880’s the peak was called Densmore’s Mountain after Alaskan Propspector Frank Densmore who was the 1st to reach the base of the mountain.
  • In 1896, William Dickey, a gold prospector, gave the mountain the name Mount McKinley after the 25th US President William McKinley from Ohio – despite the fact that McKinley never even saw the mountain.
  • The National Park Service established Mount McKinley National Park in 1917.
  • In 1980, the park tripled in size from 2 million to 6 million acres. It also earned its current name – Denali National Park and Preserve
  • The state of Alaska changed the mountain’s name back to Denali in 1975.
  • In 2015, US President Barack Obama federally changed the name to Denali.
Denali | Pixabay Image
Denali | Pixabay Image

Now let’s look at a timeline of significant accomplishments in Denali history:

  • 1794 – Surveyor George Vancouver reported the 1st sighting of the mountain.
  • 1903 – The Cook Expedition made the first circumnavigation.
  • 1903 – Judge James Wickersham made the first summit attempt via the Peters Glacier to the North Face on a route called that’s now called Wickersham’s Wall. That route was not successfully climbed until 1963.
  • 1906 – Explorer Fredrick Cook claimed to have reached the summit, but was discredited.
  • 1913 – Hudson Stuck, Walter Harper, Harry Karstens and Robert Tatum made the 1st successful ascent to the South Summit.
  • 1932 – The Cosmic Ray Party suffered the first two known fatalities on Denali.
  • 1947 – Barbara Washburn became the 1st woman to summit Denali
  • 1951 – Bradford Washburn made 1st ascent of West Buttress Route.
  • 1960 – Bradford Washburn published the 1st topo map of the area.
  • 1967 – Art Davidson, Dave Johnston, and Ray Genet made the 1st winter ascent.
  • 1970 – Naomi Uemura made the first solo ascent
  • 1970 – Tsuyoshi Ueki made the 1st ski descent from the South Peak
  • 1972 – Sylvain Saudan made the 1st ski descent of the Messner Couloir.
  • 1976 – Wade, Kvalvic, Burns, and Hudson; made the 1st hang glider descent.
  • 1979 – Susan Butcher, Ray Genet, Brian Okonek, Joe Redington, Sr., and Robert Stapleton made the 1st dog team ascent.
  • 1989 – Vern Tejas made the 1st paraglide descent from the South Summit.
  • 1993 – Joan Phelps became the 1st blind climber to reach the summit.
  • 1995 – Mark Stasik and Daryl Miller made the 1st winter circumnavigation.
  • 2001 – 11-year-old Galen Johnston became the youngest person to climb Denali
  • 2013 – 78-year-old Tom Choate became the oldest person to summit Denali.
  • 2014 – Kilian Jornet set the Fastest Known Time on Denali with a round trip climb of Denali in 11 hours, 48 minutes.
  • 2017 – Katie Bono set the woman’s speed record on Denali at 21 hours, 6 minutes.
Caribou In Front Of Denali | Pixabay Image
Caribou In Front Of Denali | Pixabay Image

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Denali is a legendary mountain. Hopefully you’ve learned a few interesting facts about Denali in this post. Maybe some day you can visit Denali National Park and Preserve to see the highest point in North America for yourself or better yet, you can climb to Denali’s towering summit.

Below you’ll find an assortment of books about Denali featured on

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