Denali mountain in Alaska

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Hundreds of mountains jut out of the plains of the Alaskan wilderness, towering high above forests, towns and roads. Many dream of driving along some of the state’s most famous highways, feeling humbled by these majestic peaks.

With four major mountain ranges including the Alaska Range, the Coast Range, the Brooks Range and the Aleutian Range, avid climbers will be spoiled for choice. Whether you’re eager to summit or just want to take in the views, check out this guide to some of Alaska’s tallest mountains.

Denali (Mount McKinley)

Mount McKinley in Alaska

 

How tall is it?

20,310 ft.

Can you climb it?

Yes, but it’s not easy. The first recorded attempt to climb Denali was in 1903 by Judge James Wickersham. He ascended via the Peters Glacier and the North Face, which is now known as the Wickersham Wall. It was unsuccessful and over the years, a series of dangerous avalanches prevented the mountain from being summited until 1963. Today, people regularly climb Denali, though many have died over the years trying to scale this massive mountain.

History:

Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, is the highest mountain peak in North America. This imposing mountain is also the third most isolated peak in the world, after Mount Everest and Aconcagua. You can find it while on your Alaskan cruise holiday in the Denali National Park and Reserve.

The Koyukon (native Alaskan) people who inhabit the area surrounding the mountain have named the peak ‘Denali’ for centuries. In 1896, a gold prospector named it Mount McKinley in support of the presidential candidate at the time, William McKinley. Regardless of its name, its beauty is undisputed.

How can I see it?

Denali is visible from various locations in Alaska, including the Denali Park Road, Anchorage, Fairbanks and the George Parks Highway.

Mount Saint Elias

Mount Saint Elias in Alaska

 

How tall is it?

18,009 ft.

Can you climb it?

It’s not advisable. Although the mountain is sometimes climbed, there is no easy route to summit and long stretches of bad weather often hamper attempts to climb.

History:

Mount Saint Elias is the second highest mountain in the United States and Canada, set on the Yukon and Alaska border. It forms part of the Saint Elias Mountains. Its name in Tlingit (a language spoken by the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska) is Yas’eit’aa, meaning ‘mountain behind icy bay’. It is said that Mount Saint Elias and Mount Fairweather at the border of British Columba and Alaska were originally next to each other but had an argument and separated.

The mountain is most famous for its vertical relief (terrain), with its summit rising 18,000 feet vertically in just 10 miles. In 2007, an Austrian documentary film was made about a team of skiers and mountaineers who wanted to make the planet’s longest skiing descent. The team summited and then successfully skied down to 13,000 feet.

How can I see it?

Mount Saint Elias sits in the Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Reserve. At 13.2 million acres, the park is the same size as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Switzerland combined. To get anywhere near the mountain, your best bet is to go via the town of McCarthy.

Mount Foraker

Mount Foraker in Alaska

 

How tall is it?

17,400 ft.

Can you climb it?

Yes. Many expeditions run for eager climbers and hikers to summit parts of Mount Foraker. The first successful ascent was completed in 1934 by Charles S. Houston, Dr. T Graham Brown and Chychele Waterson via the northwest ridge. Since then, there have been many notable climbs and some fatalities.

History:

As the sixth tallest mountain in North America, Mount Foraker stands proudly in the Alaska Range in Denali National Park. Although still named ‘sultana’ by native Alaskans, meaning ‘the woman’, the mountain was officially named after Joseph B Foraker, a sitting U.S Senator at the time from Ohio.

How can I see it?

Mount Foraker can be found in Denali National Park. Your best bet is to take the historic Petersville Road.

Mount Bona

Mount Bona in Alaska

 

How tall is it?

16,550 ft.

Can you climb it?

Yes. The most common route is via the East Ridge and it is considered by some to be the ideal stepping stone before tackling a bigger and more complicated peak such as Denali. However, Mount Bona isn’t an easy mountain to climb, with glaciers and rapidly changing weather often hampering expeditions.

History:

Mount Bono was named by Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, in 1897. He allegedly saw the peak while making the first ascent to Mount Saint Elias, which is around 80 miles away, and named it after his racing yacht. The spectacular mountain was first climbed in 1930 by Allen Carpe, Terris Moore and Andrew Taylor. As opposed to the most popular route today, the climbers scaled the Russel Glacier on the west of the peak.

How can I see it?

The mountain can be found in Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Reserve, so McCarthy is the closest town.

Mount Blackburn

 

Mount Blackburn in Alaska

 

How tall is it?

16,390 ft.

Can you climb it?

Yes. There are four main routes to summit Mount Blackburn. The North Ridge, East Ridge, Southeast Ridge and South and Southwest Ridge. While the first three are all used regularly, there has been no successful summit via the South and Southwest Ridge so far due to severe weather, crevasses and avalanches.

History:

Mount Blackburn is the highest peak in the Wrangell Mountain Range and is the fifth-highest peak in the United States. It is also an old, eroded shield volcano and the second-highest volcano in the U.S. It was named by Henry T Allen of the U.S Army in 1885 after Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn, a U.S senator from Kentucky.

Kennedy Peak or East Blackburn is the eastern summit which was originally thought to be the highest point of the mountain. The first ascent of this summit was made in 1912 by George Handy and Dora Keen.

How can I see it?

Mount Blackburn is in the heart of Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Reserve. The best way to catch a glimpse of the mountain is by driving on the road to McCarthy.

Whichever peak draws you to The Last Frontier, we’re sure you’ll love exploring this vast wilderness. As well as scaling mountains, Alaska offers a wide range of activities, unique cuisine and fascinating towns. Be sure to take it all in on your Alaskan cruise.

Image credits: Nic McPhee, National Park Service Alaska Region, Jack French, Wrangell- St. Elias National Park

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