Hugo Zubler Switzerland
 

 


Colossus of Granite:
Mount McKinley

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Mount McKinley, rising to 20,320 feet (6,194 meters). is the highest mountain in the Alaska chain and indeed in all of North America. Yet this peak, oriented towards the south, does not just stand straight, needle-like, in lofty isolation; rather, it is almost playful in the way it swings and twists upwards through the last decisive stretch above the powerful massif. Its northerly location and the precipitous shifts in altitude make Mount McKinley one of the coldest and roughest mountains in the world. Warm air, climbing its icy flanks in mid-summer sheds its moisture suddenly as it cools - and an arctic blizzard is unleashed in no time at all, as if out of the blue. Thus, climbing here becomes a perilous adventure (and for many persons has proved to be their last): only few have succeeded in ascending to the top of McKinley. The first two to make it were Hudson Stuck and Henry P. Karstens. with two assistants, on June 7, 1917. The giant received its present name quite arbitrarily: gold prospectors in 1896 named it after the U.S. presidential candidate they favored, William McKinley, who went on in fact to become President (1897-1901) - perhaps thanks to the world's hugest volunteer campaigner. Year-round ice makes Denali, as McKinley is also known, gleam in a dazzling ray of white. Mighty glaciers glide inch by inch across its flanks, down towards the tundra whose sparse vegetation spreads like a dark fleece between the lowest Iying ice and snow surfaces and the tree line (2,700 ft or 825 m). Here the ground is eternally frozen - only in summer does a thin layer of surface thaw, allowing life some kind of chance. Only below the tree line and at some distance from the massif does the thicker growth, Alaska's wilderness, begin. Situated to the north, northwest and east of Mount McKinley, this area known as Denali National Park is a homeland for grizzlies, wolves, foxes and lynxes, caribou and elk, beavers, marmots and white hares, eagles, falcons, owls and many other fauna. Millions of years ago, a piece of the earth's crust was hurled upwards in an enormous rock formation, which snow and ice have polished by now into a jewel of a landscape:
Mount McKinley.




 
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