Erik's 1st Continental Summit
|Elevation||20,320 feet (6,194 meters)|
|Location||United States of America|
|Mountain Range||Alaska Range|
|First Ascent||1913 by Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum|
|My Ascent||June 1995|
Denali means "the great one" in the native Athabascan language. It was the first of my seven summits. Denali rises steeply from its base at just over 2,000 feet above sea level to over 20,000 feet, a gain in elevation greater than Mt. Everest.
The journey begins by flying from the town of Talkeetna in a bush plane equipped with wheels for the take-off and skis for the landing on the Kahiltna Glacier. Forty miles long and a mile thick, the Kahiltna Glacier is a massive tongue of solid ice which inches its way down the western flanks of Denali.
As the glacier moves downward, a complex network of giant crevasses, or cracks, are formed, which climbers have to negotiate. Snowfall often blows across their openings and freezes so that the crevasses are hidden from sight by a snow cover of only a few inches in places. It can be a dangerous place. That's why climbing teams are roped together. If one teammate falls through a snow bridge into a crevasse, the others on the team throw themselves down on their ice axes, hopefully stopping the person from going the distance.
Because Denali is so close to the Arctic Circle, it experiences a phenomonon called the Coriolis effect, which results in fierce storms with heavy snowfall, high winds, and frigid temperatures. The only way to climb Denali is to wait out these storms, so climbing teams go prepared, hauling heavy packs and sleds filled with 24 days of provisions.