Descendants of 1913 Team to Follow in Relatives Footsteps on the 'Denali 2013 Centennial Climb'
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Descendants of 1913 Team to Follow in Relatives Footsteps on the 'Denali 2013 Centennial Climb'

Mount McKinley is the highest point in North America. Peaking at 20,320 feet, it is located in South Central Alaska and is often referred to as Denali. Denali is the Alaska Native name for McKinley, meaning “The Great One.” One hundred years ago, in 1913, 21-year old Alaskan Native Walter Harper became the first man in history to reach the top of Mt. McKinley. This year, a team of descendants of the original expedition who first successfully climbed Mt. McKinley 100 years ago will attempt the same climb this spring, bearing a message of achievement to young Alaska Natives.

Mount McKinley is the highest point in North America. Peaking at 20,320 feet, it is located in South Central Alaska and is often referred to as Denali. Denali is the Alaska Native name for McKinley, meaning “The Great One.”

One hundred years ago, in 1913, 21-year old Alaskan Native Walter Harper became the first man in history to reach the top of Mt. McKinley. His four man team also included Harry Karstens, Robert Tatum and Hudson Stuck. Stuck wrote a book, published the next year, titled “The Ascent of Denali (Mount McKinley)“. This year, a team of descendants of the original expedition who first successfully climbed Mt. McKinley 100 years ago will attempt the same climb this spring, bearing a message of achievement to young Alaska Natives.

The Denali 2013 Centennial Climb is comprised of Dana Wright, Ken Karstens, Ray Schuenemann, Dan Hopkins, and Mark Lattime. They will begin their ascent on 7 June 2013.

Wright is the great-grandnephew of Walter Harper. Karstens and Schuenemann are the great-grandsons of Harry Karstens, who was second on the mountain and a team leader. Hopkins is the great-great nephew of Episcopal Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, who was also a team leader in 1913. Lattime, who is the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, plans to hold a Eucharist on the mountain and honor the memory of Stuck.

The Centennial team will follow the same treacherous and complex route on the North Side of Denali through McGonagal Pass, and up the Muldrow Glacier and along Karstens Ridge into the great basin between Denali’s peaks.

The team has partnered with FindingLife, a nonprofit organization that uses adventure, education, technology and charitable initiatives to inspire students to create positive change. Students will learn while interacting live online with expedition members, watch video webisodes from the mountain and follow the team’s progress via GPS tracking.

The National Congress of American Indians and the Alaska State Board of Education have endorsed the climb.

“This achievement is something young Alaska Natives can be very proud of, and it will help them believe that anything is possible,” said Mike Harper, grandnephew of Walter Harper. “It’s also a story that should be shared with audiences around the world.”

Harper and his team were not the first to attempt the climb to the top of Mt. McKinley. The earliest attempt was in 1903 by a five man team led by Judge James Wickersham. They reached the 10,000 foot level which is now known as the Wickersham Wall.

Since Harper and his team conquered the coveted mountain peak, many others have followed. Two members of the 1932 exploration team sadly became the first fatalities on the mountain. In 1947, Barbara Washburn became the first woman to reach the summit. The first solo ascent (by Naomi Uemura), the first all-female ascent, and the mountain’s first ski descent all occurred in 1970. Betty Menard became the first female native American to reach the summit in 1971.

Interested readers can follow the 2013 climb at http://denaliclimb2013.blogspot.com/.

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