In Alaska, especially in September, it rains and it rains a lot. It had been raining for weeks, but stopped on the day I decided to go to Denali National Park and whitewater rafting. It stopped raining on the day I decided to go to Chena Hot Springs, and it stopped raining for the day when the Aurora was at its highest activity level in weeks allowing me to see a spectacular show. It had also been raining non-stop for two weeks in Talkeetna, stopping the day I travelled there by train. I had sun and clear skies for several days which meant I also got to see the clearest view of Denali in over two months.
Just a few minutes walk from the town, over a small stream and through some trees, you end up at a fantastic spot for mountain viewing. To catch a glimpse of the High One, it must be an exceptionally clear day, as at 20,237 ft the mountain creates its own weather patterns and is usually covered by clouds. As I mentioned, luck was on my side, and I didn’t waste it. I spent around 12 hours in this spot making the most of this one in a life time opportunity. And sampling Alaskan beer. And later on, wine.
The measurement I just used is the one newly released, as when it was measured last, in 1952, the height was 20,320 ft. But do not fear Americans, you still have the highest peak in North America. The town has a very good, albeit small, exhibition about the mountain, as well as a to-scale replica of the entire range. I would show photographs, if I hadn’t have forgotten to put my camera battery in before I left for there, red face! It was in the museum that I discovered the name for the mountain, Mt. McKinley, was given in 1896 as a show of support for a presidential candidate William McKinley, who later became president. Though, in Alaska, the official name for the mountain is Denali, which is native Athabaskan for The High One. Alaska has tried to push for the name to be officially changed everywhere else but is continually blocked by the Ohio congressional, the home state of William McKinley. So in the 49th state the official name is Denali, but in the lower 48 its McKinley and I suppose elsewhere in the world, you can choose.
It takes around two weeks to climb the mountain, and climbers don’t even start at the bottom. As it takes around a week to hike to the base, planes drop everyone off at around 4,000 ft. Climbers of Denali don’t use oxygen and the mountain is the coldest and stormiest in the world, as cold as Mount Everest gets in the winter is Denali in the summer. One excellent thing about Denali is that park rangers, stationed for a month at a time in base camp, enforce the strict rule of ‘pack out what you pack in’. This means everything, including human waste, I watched a film about it at the rangers station, which is where i got most of my facts. The only trace of humans are the footprints.