ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The recently renamed mountain, Denali, is 10 feet shorter according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), although it keeps being the highest mountain in the US. Formerly known as Mount McKinley, the mountain now measures 20,310 feet at its highest point.

As a part of the USGS program to update the elevations of the mountains in Alaska and elsewhere, the team of the agency collected data from Denali through actual ground measurements. Since June 15 one climber from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and three climbers from the private survey company CompassData Inc., spent 14 days examining the structure using Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment.

Mount McKinley, tinged pink with alpenglow, with Wonder Lake in the foreground NPS Photo / Jacob W. Frank
Mount McKinley, tinged pink with alpenglow, with Wonder Lake in the foreground
NPS Photo / Jacob W. Frank

USGS spokespersons said in a press released that it is not that Denali has shrunk, but instead, advances in surveying technology have produced “a more accurate summit height of Alaska’s most magnificent natural treasure.” The previous measurement was done in 1953, and scientists did not have the right equipment or technology to come to an accurate result.

“No place draws more public attention to its exact elevation than the highest peak of a continent. Knowing the height of Denali is precisely 20,310 feet has important value to earth scientists, geographers, airplane pilots, mountaineers and the general public. It is inspiring to think we can measure this magnificent peak with such accuracy,” said Suzette Kimball, USGS acting director. “This is a feeling everyone can share, whether you happen to be an armchair explorer or an experienced mountain climber.”

To ensure the most accurate elevation number, specialists from CompassData, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey, the partners supporting the assignment, all independently processed the data collected by the climbers, taking into account certain factors.

These findings come after Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, announced that Mount McKinley would now carry its Native Alaskan name of Denali, on the eve of President Obama´s visit to Alaska this week. Denali is an Athabascan word that means “the high one” and honors the mountain for it remains being the highest mountain in North America.

Known for being the third highest mountain in the world and one of the coldest places on Earth, Denali National Park, where the mountain is located, attracts 500,000 visitors annually for its majestic views and glaciers. About 1,200 mountaineers attempt to summit the mountain every year, but its powerful winds only let half of them make it.

Source: US Geological Survey