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Routes : North America : United States : Alaska : Alaskan Range : Denali-Mt. McKinley

Denali-Mt. McKinley

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About Denali-Mt. McKinley:


20,320ft (6194m)

Denali is North America's tallest mountain at 20,320 feet, one of the "Seven Summits", and one of the tallest 100 mountains in the world. Because of it's height and position just south of the Arctic Circle, it is arguably the coldest mountain on earth. All of the other 20,000 foot+ peaks are between 43 Degrees North and 32 Degrees South of the Equator; Denali lies at 63 Degrees North. With it's base nearly at sea level, Denali's vertical rise represents one of the most dramatic on earth. Timberline is only at 3,000 feet, so the summit is a full three miles above the trees. This huge mountain so dominates it's surroundings that it can be seen from up to 250 miles away (the longest sightline on earth), and it creates it's own weather patterns. Because of it's close proximity to the North Pole, the weather conditions can be some of the most severe on the planet. Early summer temperatures of -50 degrees F are not uncommon above the 17,000 foot level, with winds sustained at up to 100 mph.

Denali has two peaks, the North Summit and the higher South Summit. The North Summit was reached by a group of novice climbers from Fairbanks on a bet in 1910. The South Summit was reached in 1913. With the high point achieved, it was nearly 20 years before another climber scaled Denali. It was rarely even attempted until Bradford Washburn proposed the West Buttress Route in 1947, and the mountain became popular among mountaineers in the 1960s, with many route variations and historic summit attempts.

Today, over 1,000 climbers attempt to scale Denali every year. Between 50 and 60% succeed, depending on the year and weather during the short climbing season. The most popular time to climb is during the months of May and June, after that the snow becomes unstable and many more crevasses are exposed on the approach.

The arctic weather conditions, high altitude, and avalanche and crevasse hazards make Denali the most hazardous of the three great peaks in the Alaska Range. There have been over 50 deaths and hundreds of rescues on the mountain. Cold and altitude seem to be the primary factors contributing to accidents. Frostbite is common even with advanced materials being used in clothing. DENALI IS A DIFFICULT MOUNTAIN!!! Do not expect it to be a walk up like most guides and experienced climbers say it is. Experience, skill, and some luck are key to getting up ANY route on this incredible mountain.



  • Denali's West Buttress by Colby Coombs and Bradford Washburn Mountaineers Books (1997)
  • High Alaska by Jonathan Waterman and Bradford Washburn American Alpine Club (1991)
  • Mount McKinley Climbers Handbook by Glenn Randall Chockstone Press (1992)

Nearest town or city: Denali National Park
Directions: Depending on the route, one can either hike in (North and East Flanks) or fly in (South and West Flanks) to the mountain. Depending on the time of year this can be a daunting task, so it is best to call ahead and see what the conditions are. Transportation to Talkeetna is via major highway so that is not usually a problem. All climbers in Denali National Park must register, check THIS WEBSITE for directions for your trip and climb.

Latitude, Longitude: 63.06900, -151.00400
Access Issues:
Camping: Yes
When to Climb:
Quantity of Climbs: Lifetime

Topo Images

Catacomb Ridge
No route specified

Forum Discussions (1 posts)

  Subject Author Replies Last Post
No Replies DENALI open for business polarwid 0 Apr 28 2003, 5:53 PM