When the Mountain is Out
To the north of Seward, there lies a wonder that astounds; an example of the awesome power of Mother Nature. You might know it as Mount McKinley, though her official name, is Denali.
However, due to the fickle minds of man, Denali has known many names. For centuries, the Koyukon Athabascan people referred to the mountain by her proper name of Denali. Though they lived in Yukon, Canada, the Koyukon’s were the first people to access the mountain. The word Denali derives from the word for “high”, “tall”, or “great”, and is commonly labeled “The Great One”.
In the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, Denali was named Densmore’s Mountain, after prospector Frank Densmore (he must have been a good prospector to have a mountain named after him).
In 1896, another prospector named the mountain McKinley, after then-presidential candidate, William McKinley, who was elected President the following year. Though Alaskan locals have typically always used the original name of Denali, the name McKinley stuck for 119 years, until President Obama announced an official name change in August of 2015…back to the original name of Denali. Not surprisingly, this caused a stir in the state of Ohio, which is President McKinley’s home state.
An interesting fact is that the name ‘Denali’ can be found in seven indigenous Alaska languages. I didn’t even realize that many different languages existed in our state!
In addition to being a gloriously stunning natural exhibit, Denali is also a force to be reckoned with. Rising 20,310 feet above the earth, she drapes herself in five large glaciers and an unimaginable amount of snow and ice, with crevasses so deep no one really knows just how deep.
The first attempt to climb Denali was an unsuccessful venture in 1903. In 1906, a man falsely claimed to have summited the mountain (I’ll bet he felt like a jerk when it was revealed that he lied…), and in 1913, a team of four successfully ascended Denali. More than 1,000 climbers per year tangle with Denali’s brutality, facing temperatures as low as -75 degrees, with a wind chill of up to -118. Yikes. The influx of hikers and climbers leave a piece of their hearts and souls within the icy flesh of Denali. They also leave behind 4,400 pounds of human waste, an issue that remains a constant battle for the powers that be. Rules and regulations are continually being deliberated and discussed as to the best and most environmental procedure for disposal (the common action was to toss the waste into crevasses, however, due to glacial melting, toxins were finding their way into deltas, rivers, and drinking water sources far below. Not cool.
Creating its own environment, Denali is so rarely “out”, remaining elusively shrouded in clouds and away from the eyes of the estimated 600,000 tourists that visit Denali National Park each season. But when she is out, she takes your breath away, and has the power to bring tears to your eyes.
Book your stay at Sauerdough Lodging, rent a car, and journey into the heart of Denali.
Blog by Liberty Elias Miller. Visit her blog here: https://www.libertyeliasmiller.com/