The Tallest Mountain in the United States

The tallest mountain in the United States of America is Denali, also formerly known as Mount McKinley. It is also the highest mountain peak in the whole of North America having a summit elevation of 6,190 meters or 20,310 feet above the sea level. Denali has the highest base to peak rise (5,500 meters) of any mountain situated above sea level completely. Denali is also the third most isolated and third most prominent mountain peak after Mount Everest and Mount Aconcagua. This peak is located in the Alaska Mountain Range in the interiors of the state of Alaska in USA. It is also in the center of the Denali National Park and Preserve.

The Koyukon people who are native to this place surrounding the mountain had named in Denali for centuries until 1896 when a gold prospector had named it “Mount McKinley” in order to support the then presidential candidate William McKinley. Mount McKinley was the official name recognized from 1917 to 2015 by the United States Government. In August of 2015, the U.S Department of the Interior announced that the mountain peak be renamed to “Denali”. Even prior to this, the mountain was already referred to as Denali by most Alaskans.

Geological Features of the Mountain

Denali is referred to as a grantic pluton which was lifted by tectonic pressure as a result of the subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the North American plate. The forces that led to the rise of Denali are also the main reason for many deep Earthquakes in Alaska. This is an active tectonic region known as the McKinley cluster and the Pacific plate beneath it is seismically active.

This mountain with a summit elevation of 6,190 meters is also the highest mountain peak in North America and it is also the northernmost mountain with an elevation above 6,000m above sea level. Denali rises from a sloping plain between the elevations of 300m to 910m and from base to peak it has a height for 5,000-6,000m. Denali has two summits, the South Summit which is the higher one and the North Summit having an elevation of 5,934m and it has a prominence of around 387m. There are five large glaciers which flow off its slopes.

On the northwest side of the mountain is the Peters Glacier and from the northeast side falls the Muldrow Glacier. To the east of Muldrow glacier lies the Traleika Glacier. To the Southeast of Denali lies the Ruth glacier and Kahiltna Glacier is on the southwest of the mountain.


A meteorological station on a ridge near the summit of Denali was installed by the Japan Alpine Club at an altitude of 5,710 meters in the year 1990. This weather station was later donated to the International Arctic Research Center. This station transmits real time weather data and forecasts to the climbers for their safety and to the science community for research purposes.

On December 1st, 2003 this weather station recorded a temperature of -75.5 degrees Fahrenheit (-59.7 degree C) and just on the previous day, 30th November 2003, it had recorded a temperature of -74.4 degree Fahrenheit (-54.1 degree C) along with a wind speed of 18.4 miles per hour and had produce a wind chill of -118.1 degree F (-83.4 degree C) which is the record wind chill in the whole continent of North America.

Temperatures even in the month of July can go as low as -22.9 degrees Fahrenheit (-30.5 degree C) and wind chill of around -59.2 degree F (-50.7 degree C).

Climbing History

Judge James Wickersham was the first person who attempted to climb Denali back in 1903 along the North face of the mountain via Peters Glacier. In 1912, Parker-Browne Expedition almost reached the top of the mountain but had to back off before they could summit due to harsh weather and only a few hours after their descent, the Great earthquake of 1912 destroyed the glacier through which they had ascended. The first man to reach the summit of Denali was Walter Harper, an Alaskan native man.

Today, this mountain is climbed regularly and around 58% of the climbers make it to the top. But it still is quite a dangerous feat since till the year 2003, this mountain had claimed the lives of over a hundred climbers.

If you are planning to try and hike up this mountain with no prior experience, then stay on the safer side and begin by practicing hiking on other easier trails and gradually move up to more difficult parts.

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