Denali dominates the landscape above Wonder Lake • NPS photo / Nathan Kostegian
The Alaska Range is a 600-mile long arc of mountains that stretches from the Alaska-Canada border all the way to the Alaska Peninsula. The range is highest at its mid-section, a vast region of towering peaks and massive glaciers that lies within Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali is a region of great geologic activity and complexity, and scientists are only beginning to piece together its puzzling past. It has rock formations that have been carried there from thousands of miles away, fossils of ancient creatures that have been plowed up from ocean depths, new rocks born of the Earth’s internal fire, and some of the oldest rocks in Alaska. The range’s height and distance from the equator combine to make it a place of eternal winter, and deep snows com-press to form glaciers (creeping rivers of ice which continuously grind away at the still-rising peaks). It would be considered one of the world’s great geologic showcases even if it didn’t contain the highest peak in North America.
Denali is one of the most striking features on the entire planet. At 20,310 feet, it is the crowning peak of the Alaska Range and the highest mountain on the continent. It towers three and one-half vertical miles above its base, making it a mile taller from base to summit than Mt. Everest. Denali’s base sits at about 2,000 feet above sea level and rises over three and one-half miles to its 20,310 foot summit. Everest begins on a 14,000-foot high plain, then summits at 29,028 feet.
Denali’s icy north face—the Wickersham Wall—is one of the world’s highest continuous mountain faces, rising 14,000 feet from the Peters Glacier to the North Peak. Permanent snow and ice cover over 75 percent of the mountain, and enormous glaciers, up to 45 miles long and 3,700 feet thick, spider out from its base in every direction. It is home to some of the world’s coldest and most violent weather, where winds of over 150 miles per hour and temperatures of -93 F have been recorded. (read more at NPS)
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