Make no mistake, this is a big one.
This week, as part of my “stay-cation” with the family, we took a trip up to Denali National Park. The centerpiece of the park is Mt McKinley, the mountain with the highest peak in North America. And by Mt McKinley, I mean Denali … the name was sorta changed about 10 years ago to the name of the mountain every Alaskan calls it. Denali is Native American (Athabaskan to be exact) for “The High One” … and I have to say, you can see why.
Topping out at 20,320 feet, it is only peak over 20,000 feet and over 6,000 meters in North America. It’s the 3rd most prominent peak in the world, meaning that it stands out compared to the rest of the mountains around it by 20,000ft (6,100 m). It also is the 3rd “most isolated” peak, meaning that you have to go 4,600 miles (7,400 km) to the nearest peak that has the same elevation (and that 3rd place isn’t fair, since Mt Everest is the 1st because nothing else is taller). For mountains starting above sea level, it is the tallest in the world from base to peak, at about 18,000ft (5,500 meters).
So, what’s all those crazy numbers mean?
It really stands out!
Along the Alaskan Mountain Range, Mt McKinley isn’t surround on all sides by other mountains, it’s open to the north and the south. Coming at it from the south, the face of the mountain jumps out at you with pure dominance. We can see it on the drive up to Denali, mostly. On a clear day, we can see the mountain from Anchorage. Then when we make our way around the Mat-Su Valley, we lose it in the trees and hills; but then when we crest a hill … Pow. We get past Talkeetna, and then you get over another crest and … KAPLOW!!! When you can get yourself in front of it, its like ….. KABOOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!
The only issue with seeing the mountain is the weather. You’ve heard me complain about the weather, well, guess what … it rains alot up there. So it’s rare to actually see the whole of the mountain. Typically only 1 in 3 visitors to Denali National Park sees the peak, and only 1 in 10 sees the whole mountain. We were about 1 in 6, the whole thing was there when we were too far off to see it all, but it clouded up by the time we got in front of it.
Seeing Denali is as much of a must do as you can get in Alaska, but its also a battle to do it. Still, that’s the night thing about living up here, if it’s 1 in 10 that sees the whole thing, I can still see it 1 out of 10 days here.