• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain

    Denali

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Historical Timeline

Notable Highlights in Alaska Range Mountaineering

1794
The first recorded reference to Denali in the journal of British explorer 'George' Vancouver.

1889
Prospector Frank Densmore refers to Denali as "Densmore's Mountain" after he traverses within 65 miles of the mountain.

1896
Prospector William Dickey names Mt. McKinley for Presidential nominee William McKinley of Ohio.

1899
First non-native overland traverse of the Alaska Range is made (via the Yentna and Kichatna Rivers) by 1st Lt. Joseph Herron's Army expedition. This same year, Herron names Mt. Foraker for U.S. Senator J.B. Foraker, also of Ohio.

1902
USGS geologist Alfred Brooks first explores the area on a mapping expedition, travelling through and eventually naming Rainy Pass.

1903
First attempt to climb Mt. McKinley made by Judge James Wickersham and four team members. The expedition started in Fairbanks and eventually reached the 10,000-foot level of what is now known as the Wickersham Wall.

That same year, a 6-member expedition led by Dr. Frederick Cook attempts Mt. McKinley's Northwest Buttress, reaching an elevation of 11,300 feet. The team completes the expedition by circumnavigating the mountain.

1906
Dr. Cook claims to be the first to reach the summit of Mt. McKinley. Skepticism ensues when Cook claims to have ascended the peak in just eight days starting from the Tokositna River, travelling up the Ruth Glacier, and summiting via the East Buttress; the return trip took a reported four days.

1907
Harper's Monthly Magazine publishes Dr. Cook's article "The Conquest of Mount McKinley" about reaching the top of Mt. McKinley with photos from the "summit" and a map of the route taken.

1910
The Sourdough Expedition climbs the north peak of Mt. McKinley via the Muldrow Glacier, planting a spruce pole near the top.

Two expeditions, the Mazama Mountaineering Club of Oregon and the Explorers Club, set out to disprove Dr. Cook's claim of reaching the summit of Mt. McKinley.

1912
The Fairbanks Daily Times expedition led by the newspaper's editor, Ralph Cairns, attempts to climb Mt. McKinley, reaching 9,200 feet on the Muldrow Glacier.

The Parker-Browne expedition starts in Seward and travels by dog team through Anderson Pass to Mt. McKinley, reaching the 20,000-foot level before retreating.

1913
First ascent of Mt. McKinley's 20,320-foot south summit achieved by Hudson Stuck, Walter Harper, Harry Karstens, and Robert Tatum. Harper, a Native Alaskan, is first to set foot on top.

1932
First aircraft landing in support of a climbing expedition: Bush pilot Joe Crosson lands the Cosmic Ray Party at 5,700-feet on the Muldrow Glacier. Two members of this party perish on the descent, becoming the mountain's first fatalities.

1934
First recorded summit of Mt. Foraker by an expedition led by Charles Houston.

1942
U.S. Army Alaskan Test Expedition, including scientist and explorer Bradford Washburn, sets out to winter-test army equipment.

1947
Barbara Washburn becomes the first woman to summit Mt. McKinley.

1951
Bradford Washburn and seven teammates pioneer the West Buttress route.

1952
First European team (Spain) ascends Mt. McKinley.

1954
The first ascent of South Buttress of Mt. McKinley, also the peak's first official traverse, is recorded. Expedition leader and Mt. McKinley park ranger Elton Thayer dies in a climbing fall while descending Karsten's Ridge.

The Northwest Buttress of Mt. McKinley also posts its first ascent. Later that season, two of the Northwest Buttress expedition members, Fred Beckey and Henry Mehbohm, record the first ascent of Mt. Hunter and Mt. Deborah.

Pilot Don Sheldon flies the first commercial flight from Talkeetna to the Kahiltna Glacier.

1959
A party of four makes the first ascent of the West Rib of McKinley (Breitenbach, Buckingham, Corbet, Sinclair).

1960
Bradford Washburn publishes a topographic map of McKinley.

A Meiji University team becomes first party to camp on McKinley's summit on May 14 and 15.

1961
An Italian party led by Ricardo Cassin is the first to summit McKinley via the Cassin Ridge.

1963
First recorded ascent of the North Peak via the Harvard Route on the Wickersham Wall.

The first north-to-south traverse of the mountain from the Muldrow Glacier to the Kahiltna Glacier.

1967
Art Davidson, Dave Johnston, and Ray Genet make the first winter ascent of McKinley.

1970
Three significant firsts on Mt. McKinley are recorded including first solo ascent (Naomi Uemura); first all-female ascent; and the mountain's first ski descent.

1971
First female Native American reaches the summit, Betty Menard.

1973
203 climbers attempt Mt. McKinley, 108 reach the summit.

1976
The nation's centennial brings forth a record number of mountaineers (508). The first solo ascent of the Cassin Ridge is made, as well as the peak's first hang glider descent.

1979
First dog team ascent of Mt. McKinley made by Susan Butcher, Joe Redington, Brian Okonek, Ray Genet and Robert Stapleton.

1982
Dr. Miri Ercolani is the first woman to solo Mt. McKinley.

The Denali Medical Research Project begins operations at the 14,200-foot basin.

1984
Naomi Uemura achieves the first winter solo ascent, though he disappears on the descent.

1988
Vernon Tejas is the first solo climber to ascend Mt. McKinley in the winter and survive.

1992
Oldest husband and wife team, Norm (age 64)and Kip (age 62) Smith summit Mt. McKinley.

1993
Joan Phelps completes the first blind ascent of Mt. McKinley.

1995
The youngest female reaches the summit of Mt. McKinley, Merrick Johnston, age 12.

Daryl Miller and Mark Stasik make the first winter circumnavigation of Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker massifs (second complete circumnavigation in history).

1997
First continuous ski descent of the Wickersham Wall made by soloist Adrian Nature.

2001
Toshiko Uchida, age 70, becomes oldest woman to reach summit. At the other end of the spectrum, Galen Johnston, age 11, becomes the youngest male to reach the summit.

2005
A record 1,340 climbers attempt Mt. McKinley, 775 of them reach the summit.

2007
Masatoshi Kuriaki completes the first solo winter ascent of Mt. Foraker.

2013

The record for the oldest male to reach summit is broken on June 28, 2013 by Alaskan resident Tom Choate, age 78.

(Sources: Denali staff; Bradford Washburn's Mt. McKinley Summary of Attempts and First 100 Ascents; Mt. McKinley - The Pioneer Climbs, by Terris Moore; Denali Symbol of the Alaskan Wild, by Bill Brown, and Mt. McKinley Icy Crown of North America, by Fred Beckey)

 

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