By far the easiest way to reach Mt. McKinley (Denali) is hopping a flight. Most of the air taxi's that land on the Kahiltna Glacier, base camp for Mt. McKinley, operate out of Talkeetna. Tourist are usually not permitted to land at the Kahiltna Glacier base camp, as to preserve the tranquility for the climbers and to preserve the runway, so that climbing may operate longer into the season, before the crevasses open in the runway.
A flight from Talkeetna takes around 50 minutes to reach the mountain. On hot summer days flights crossing the valley can be even hotter inside the plane, so be sure to have water handy for the flight.
At an elevation of 20,310 ft, Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley) is the highest point in North America.
Climbing Denali is not a light undertaking. Only about half of attempts end in a successful summit and about .3% (3 in 1,000) died while attempting int. Generally it takes 2.5-3 weeks to summit Denali and return to basecamp, but it is possible to summit in under two weeks for those who are prepared and the weather is in their favor. Over 90% of summits are performed along the West Buttress route leaving from Denali Base Camp.
Originally called Denali by the Tanana natives, it was also called "Doleika" or "Traleika" by the Tanaina natives. All meaning "the big one" or "the high one."
In 1896 it was named Mount McKinley by William A. Dickey, prospector, "after William McKinley of Ohio, who had been nominated for the Presidency and that was the first news we received on our way out of that wonderful wilderness." McKinley, 1854-1901, was the 25th President of the United States.
The first mention of the massif was by Captain George Vancouver, who when seeing it from Cook Inlet in 1794, referred to the "stupendous snow mountains." The Russians descriptively called it "Bolshaya (Bulshaia) Gora" or "big mountain." Alfred Mayo and Arthur Harper, pioneer Alaska traders, after a trip up the Tanana River in 1878, reported, "a great ice mountain to the south," but did not name it. A prospector, Frank Densmore, spoke so enthusiastically after seeing the mountain from Lake Minchumina in 1889, that it was known for years among prospectors as "Densmores Peak."
In the GSPP 567 it reports that "North Peak was first reached on April 3, 1910, by two prospectors, Peter Anderson and William Taylor. South Peak, the higher was first 'conqured' on June 7, 1913, by Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, Walter Harper, Robert Tatum, and Harry Karstens (later park superintendent)"
Current government record states; The north summit was first reached on April 3, 1913, by Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, Walter Harper, Robert Tatum, and Harry Karstens (later park superintendent).
The Stuck, Harper, Tatum and Karstens party ascended via the Muldrow Glacier route.