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One done, five to go!!!

Climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley) -- Stage 1 of the Six Summits Project

Completed: February 1, 2003 - August 24, 2003

Dispatches: starting on February 2003

Distances along the way

  • Seattle to Forks Road House -- 2,683 miles
  • Forks Road House to Kahiltna Base Camp: 67 miles
  • Kahiltna Base Camp to Denali Summit: 16 miles
  • Forks Road House to Seattle: 2,863 miles
  • Roundtrip distance traveled: 5,546 miles
  • Actual Distances
  • Route Sections

  • Bike route between Seattle and Forks Road House
  • Intended approach route from Petersville on the south side
  • Actual route from Forks Roadhouse to the summit
  • Pictures

  • From the road
  • From the beginning
  • Climbing Team on the mountain
  • The highest point in North America, Denali was the one most accessible to Seattle when compared among the six total summits in the Six Summits Project. The decision to move forward was swift, and the expedition planning started on the way back from Göran Kropp's funeral in Stockholm in November 2002. The decision was made to climb Denali in late April, early May of 2003 in the style of Göran Kropp.

    Erden Eruç left Seattle on Feb 1, 2003 towing his climbing gear and all that he needed to survive the winter conditions on the Alaska Highway. On April 11, he arrived at Anchorage. On May 1, he transitioned from bicycling while towing a trailer to snowshoes pulling a sled. At the Forks Roadhouse just south of Denali, the climbing team members Cory Groom and Chris Woytko met Erden. Together, they hiked in 67 meandering miles, traveling the length of the Kahiltna Glacier to finally reach the Kahiltna Base Camp on May 14. Base camp was where the entire team finally came together to join forces for the climb. Jeremy Cranford and Eddie Espinosa had flown in with team supplies and had already made a cache carry toward the first camp. It would not be until May 29 that the team would stand on the summit, another 16 miles away.

    Due to time constraints with Erden's upcoming wedding in Homer Alaska which had been scheduled for June 15, the team chose to fly out from Base Camp. After his wedding, Erden returned to the Forks Roadhouse and rode his bike, still towing the trailer full of climbing gear to Seattle. The roundtrip distance he covered was 5,546 miles leaving the 67 miles to walk out from basecamp.

    When the Six Summits Project is completed in early 2011, Erden intends to return to the Denali National Park to climb a technical route. For the sake of completeness, he will conclude that trip with the 67 mile walk out from the Kahiltna Base Camp to the Forks Roadhouse.

    Denali or McKinley?

    Denali (The High One) is the Native American word for North America's highest peak, Mount McKinley, rising 20,320 feet (6,194m) in the mountain chain called the Alaska Range. Denali was renamed Mount McKinley for William McKinley, a nominee for president, by the Princeton graduate and gold prospector, William Dickey. Dickey was one of the hundreds of prospectors seeking gold in the 1896 Cook Inlet stampede. He had written an article for the New York Sun where he described the mountain as the highest in North America at over 20,000 feet.

      "When later asked why he named the mountain after McKinley, Dickey replied that the verbal bludgeoning he had received from free silver partisans had inspired him to retaliate with the name of the gold-standard champion."
      Mt. McKinley: The Pioneer Climbs by Terris Moore

    Since the turn of the 19th century, the official name of this great mountain has not rested in peace. In 1914, following his historic first ascent of the mountain in 1913, Hudson Stuck wrote in the preface of his book, The Ascent of Denali: "Forefront in this book, because forefront in the author's heart and desire, must stand a plea for the restoration to the greatest mountain in North America of its immemorial native name."

    In 1980, the name Mount McKinley National Park was officially changed to Denali National Park and Preserve. The State of Alaska Board of Geographic Names has also officially changed the mountain's name back to Denali. Negotiations continue today to officially return the original native name to this magnificent mountain. This booklet uses the names Mt. McKinley and Denali interchangeably throughout. -- (from the NPS Mountaineering Booklet)

    Geology Lesson

    Denali is the highest mountain in North America, and is still growing 3/4 of an inch every year. This growth is the result of two giant tectonic plates colliding.

    Denali massif is a pluton, which is a large homogeneous block of rock formed beneath the earth's surface from molten lava. This massif is now located near a bend in the Denali Fault System and is being pushed up by the interacting pressures of the Pacific Plate, the Yakutat Block sliding along the Denali Fault System, and the rigid continental plate to the north.

    The Pacific Plate continues to move northward carrying islands, sediments and the Yakutat block. As it plunges under the North American Plate, earthquakes and volcanoes are produced, and mountains are formed and pushed up. This conveyor belt may eventually deposit part of California in Alaska.

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