The Highpointers Foundation
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of the highest point in each of the 50 United States.
State Highpoints – Alaska - 20,320-foot Denali

20,320-foot Denali is the highest peak in Alaska, the United States, and North America. Denali, formerly Mount McKinley, is the highest peak on the planet north or south of 60 degrees. Denali, with a prominence of 20,156 feet is the third most prominent peak on Earth, surpased only by Everest and Aconcagua. Taking a closer look, Denali has a greater vertical rise from its base than Everest. Denali rises about 18,000 feet from its base, which is a greater vertical rise than Everest’s 12,000-foot rise from its base at 17,000 feet. Climbing Denali is a project; the average expedition takes at least three weeks, and the physical effort required can be severe. For the standard West Buttress Route, you fly onto the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,300 feet. You must then climb on snow to 20,320 feet, a gain of over 13,000 feet. The higher you climb, the colder it gets. At the typical high camp at 17,200 feet, it can drop to -30 degrees Fahrenheit in June. Storms that force you to stay in camp are commen, and you must plan accordingly. The logistical crux is planning your summit climb with good weather. Climbers who are stranded in high camp waiting for good weather, usually retreat in defeat when the weather clears. It is better to wait at the 14,200-foot camp, check the weather forecasts carefully, then launch to high camp and the summit when a good weather window appears. The altitude also fools many climbers. 20,000 feet on Denali in summer, is equivalent to 21,000 feet near the equator. The main reason for this is that the Arctic is cold and cold air sinks. This effect is much worse in the winter, but don’t even think of attempting Denali in winter. You will also need to register and pay a fee to the National Park in the spring before your climb. There is much information about how to prepare for a Denali climb. You will need proper equipment, and you must be in shape!

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