07 June 2017

More first ascents

7 June is the anniversary of the first ascent, in 1913, of Mount McKinley:

On 7 June 1913, Hudson Stuck, an Alaskan missionary, led the first successful ascent of Mount McKinley, at 20,320 feet the highest point on the American continent.
Stuck, an accomplished amateur mountaineer, was born in London, England in 1863. After moving to the United States, in 1905 he became archdeacon of the Episcopal Church in Yukon, Alaska, where he was an admirer of Native American culture and traveled Alaska’s difficult terrain to preach to villagers and establish schools.
In March of 1913, the adventure-seeking Stuck set out from Fairbanks for Mount McKinley with three companions: Harry Karstens, co-leader of the expedition, Walter Harper, whose mother was a Native American, and Robert Tatum, a theology student. Their arduous journey was made more challenging by difficult weather and a fire at one of their camps, which destroyed food and supplies. However, the group persevered and on 7 June, Harper, followed by the rest of the party, was the first person to set foot on McKinley’s south peak, considered the mountain’s true summit. (In 1910 a group of climbers had reached the lower north peak.)
Stuck referred to the mountain by its Athabascan name, Denali, meaning The High One. In 1889, the mountain, over half of which is covered with permanent snowfields, was dubbed Densmores Peak, after a prospector named Frank Densmore. In 1896, it was renamed in honor of Senator William McKinley, who became president that year.
Mount McKinley National Park was established as a wildlife refuge in 1917. Harry Karstens served as the park’s first superintendent. In 1980, the park was expanded and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve. Encompassing six million acres, the park is larger than Massachusetts.
Hudson Stuck died in Alaska on 10 October 1920. Today, over a thousand hopeful climbers attempt to scale McKinley each year, with about half of them successfully reaching their goal.
Rico says it never had the deadly effects of the Everest ascent.

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