Scenic USA - Alaska

Denali- The Great One

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The Great One - Healy, Alaska

Photos by Steve Wolfe
Steve Wolfe Photography

   Surrounded by nine Native Alaskan groups, including five Athabaskan Grizzly Bear - Denali National Park, Alaskalanguages, the immense Mount Denali has gone by numerous names ever since humans lived in the area. Known to most Americans as Mount McKinley during the past century, the Denali name was restored in 2015 by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. In this age of constant controversy, emotions about the name change still linger. Proponents of keeping the McKinley name like to refer to the two other assassinated presidents, Lincoln or Kennedy, and how their names have been immortalized around the country. And now they say McKinley's honor has been wiped away with the stroke of a pen.
   This special mountain, The Great One, is Alaska's highest peak, as well as the tallest on the North American continent. The South Peak, 320 feet higher than the North Peak, tops out at 20,320 feet. This majestic mountain, continually referred to as Denali by most Alaskans, is one of the highlights at Denali National Park. Often cloaked in a layer of clouds, the peak is characterized by its extremely cold temperatures. The climb is sometimes seen as a training ground for world's highest peak, Mount Everest. Most climbers ascend McKinley Mount Denali - Land of the Midnight Sun, AK by way the West Buttress route, relatively hazard free. Because of the large number of middle-aged amateur climbers, the West Buttress route is often called the mid-life crisis climb. All kidding aside, the route is very challenging and a few of the most experienced climbers have died on the way.
   Because the entire mountain frequently hides in a cover of clouds for days and sometimes weeks, Denali National Park visitors may focus more on viewing the notable big five on their park tour. Seeing the wolf, moose, Dall sheep, caribou and grizzly bear create one of the most memorable Denali experiences, even if they miss seeing this colossal peak.

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