Denali Summit, Denali National Park, Alaska.

Denali summit, Denali National Park, Alaska.

hey Folks

OK OK OK .. I’ll quit posting Denali, or Mt. McKinley, photos in a little while! I’m just glad I finally got some! 🙂 This one was kind of unusual for me. I do like this kind of abstract mountain peak photo, but normally I don’t shoot photos like this when the light is really happening. On this particular morning, I had been camped in this location for several days, already had a number of decent images of alpenglow on the mountain with wider lenses, and decided I would ‘go for it’. I’m glad I did because I got this one and a couple of other similar images that I really like. The alpenglow was warm and juicy, a real treat. I used my 500mm lens on my D2x camera, giving me an effective focal length of 750mm, which required some patience and technique to get a sharp image. The shutter speed was not as fast as I might’ve hoped for, but with some effort I managed to get some sharp photos.

I get asked a lot about whether I call the mountain Denali or Mt. McKinley. I almost never use Mt. McKinley, the mountain’s official name, but almost always go with the local name, Denali. For those of you who don’t know the history of the 2 names, I’ll offer a short summary here:

The people who lived in the area prior to the arrival of the Europeans were Athabascan people, and the name they used for the mountain is “Denali” – it translates, closely, in English as “The Great One”, or “The High One”. The official name, given to the mountain in 1896, is a reference to the former Governor of Ohio, and later President of the US, William McKinley. The State of Alaska recognises the name Denali, but the official US name is Mt. McKinley. What’s interesting to me is the difference of abstraction here: one group of people named the mountain after what it is, a great, or high mountain .. a tribute to the mountain itself, it’s grandeur and it’s majesty. Our culture has failed to do this, and instead named the mountain after one of our own, a senator and later president. We do this too often, I think.

And it goes further than this; the peak that sits just to the south of Denali, Mt. Foraker, is also named after a Senator from Ohio, Joseph Foraker. Again, we can look to the native people for a name that best fits the mountain and mountain range: the name “Menlale”, translates as “Denali’s wife”, or “Sultana”, meaning ‘the woman” – both a reference to the mountain being slightly smaller than nearby Denali, but equally respecting the mountain itself. I think this is possibly one of the most poignant examples of how our culture fails to value the landbase for something unto itself, we only tend to recognise it’s utilitarian value, it’s value to us. Hence, we often name places and features of the landscape after people we admire – maybe a symbol of respect to people, but, in my opinion, a complete disrespect to the landbase on which we live.

I think it’s also a lack of respect for the people who lived in the area before us that we fail to honor the names they had for the characters and features they shared the land with. When European settlers arrived here, humans had already given names for the animals and plants, the mountains, streams and watersheds. Our unwillingness to honor those names is just one example of a complete lack of respect for the people who lived here.

For these reasons, I prefer Denali, and Menlale, or Sultana. My mum said she likes those names, too.



PS: You can see more photos from Denali National Park here.

7 thoughts on “Denali Summit, Denali National Park, Alaska.

  1. Minna

    Interesting to read the background for the names, it looks like the same thing happens all over the world. Here in Sweden the Sami people had given similar descriptive names to landscape features, then when the Swedes started moving further up north and take over the land from the Sami, they also renamed things or twisted the original Sami name to a Swedish form. In the recent years though, there has been an increased effort to use the original Sami names, which can only be a good thing!

    And the picture – beautiful glow, beautiful composition!

  2. Guy

    As trends go, we’re probably fortunate most of these were already named. Today they might have been called Mt. Burger King or Microsoft National Park.
    What the heck are you doing in Denali anyway, Carl? I thought you were a Wrangell man.


  3. Ron Niebrugge

    Hey Carl,

    When I was a kid the park was named Mt. McKinley National Park. They fixed the name of the park, too bad they didn’t fix the mountain’s name at the same time.

    When I’m not referring to it as Denali, then I just call it “The Mountain”.


  4. Carl Donohue

    Hey MaryBeth,

    Thank you.


    That’s great that in Sweden there’s an increase in using the original Sami names. I think it can only help the perspective through which we see the world.


    Wow – that’s so true and something I never even thought of. Can you imagine? Ugghhh! As for me being in Denali, I was there the week before you went. I was going out for a few days with a buddy of mine, and the forecast for the Wrangells was kinda bad . and slightly better for Denali – so we went there, and had unbelievable weather for 5 days. Other than that, I spent all summer in the Wrangells.


    I remember reading that one of the reasons they left the mountain as McKinley and changed the park was so it would be easier to discern between the park and the mountain in conversations, reports, etc, – how crazy is that?

    And yes, ‘The Mountain” is a perfectly apt name. Sometimes when I’m talking about you, I use “The Stock Photographer”, as well. 🙂 🙂 – just kidding, of course.



  5. PeterPan

    Are the photos of plants the one’s near Mt. McKinley?Please answer me i need to know.

  6. Pingback: Denali, Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. - Stock Photos - Skolai Images

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