Mount Denali (formerly McKinley) | Denali National Park
It's hard to get a bird's-eye view of Mt. Denali. After all, Mount McKinley stands 20,320 feet above sea level--dwarfing the tall mountains around it. Mount McKinley is so big that it has its own weather system. Truthfully, it can be sunny in Anchorage and Fairbanks at the same time the mountain is socked in by clouds.
There are lots of big facts about Mount Denali. Some of the glaciers on Mount Denali are well-known. For example, the Ruth Glacier is where bush pilot Don Sheldon built a cabin. The "Mountain House" still hosts visitors from around the world. The glacier is a favorite landing spot for travelers who want a brief glacier landing as part of an air tour. Kahiltna Glacier hosts "Base Camp" for those who are climbing to the top of the mountain. However, there are dozens of other glaciers around the mountain. On an air tour, you can see many orange cones, many of which denote a glacier landing strip staked out earlier by pilots.
There are many larger-than-life Alaska pioneers that spent years on or around Mount Denali. Bradford Washburn and his wife, Barbara, mapped out Mount Denali in the 1950s. Today, their calculations and technical data still figure prominently in any geographic analysis of the mountain and its surroundings. Washburn helped produce a great book on Mount Denali: "Mount McKinley: The Conquest of Denali". It's an incredible essay with stunning photographs of the mountain by Washburn. The book is out of print, but go to the "Alaskacam" home page on the link above, to find the book from private parties.
The Washburns depended on Bush Pilots like Bob Reeve, Lowell Thomas, Jr. and Don Sheldon to ferry supplies up and down Mount Denali. While much of the business for air taxis was hauling freight, the same pilots often were called on to rescue injured climbers. Don Sheldon was regarded as one of the "super airmen" of the mountain. His story is recounted in a popular Alaska book, "Wager with the Wind".
Since Mount Denali is inside the Denali National Park and Preserve, all climbers need to register with the Park Service. Climbers must register with the Park Service at least 60 days prior to their climb, then pay a $200 fee (plus park entrance fee). The Park Service's ranger station in Talkeetna is the nerve center for monitoring climbers on the mountain. Even if you're not planning on climbing Mount Denali, a stop at the ranger station in downtown Talkeetna offers an interesting look at the mountain, its special properties and obstacles.
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