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Denali downsized: New data show North America's tallest peak 83 feet shorter

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 3:01 pm | Updated: 6:37 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

FAIRBANKS—The Great One has been downsized.

Denali, North America’s tallest peak, is not quite as tall as once thought, but it’s still the tallest peak on the continent.

Updated radar mapping conducted in 2012 put the Mount McKinley at 20,237 feet rather than 20,320 feet, Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell told the annual symposium of the International Map Collectors’ Society held in Fairbanks this week.

“That’s 83 feet shorter than we thought,” Treadwell said, according to a press release on Wednesday. “The good news is: Denali is still the tallest peak in North America.”

According to the press release, the new height was measured in 2012 as part of Alaska’s Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative.

Fairbanks mountaineer Stan Justice, a member of the Alaska Apline Club who has summited Denali, shrugged off the news.

“All we have to do is learn a new number,” he said. “It’s hard to climb, and the air is just as thin.”

What he found more interesting is that the entire ridge line of Mount Dickey in Denali National Park had been missing from previous maps and was finally found in the latest efforts.

“It’s right off of the air strip,” he said with a laugh. “It’s one of the most common climbs in the park area so everyone goes up Mount Dickey. That is interesting that it wasn’t accurately portrayed.”

The mapping effort has been running since 2010, with funding from the state and federal governments. It’s nearly 50 percent complete and is on schedule to be finished by 2016, the release said.

The United States Geological Survey has produced 400 new Alaska maps and eventually will produce more than 11,000. The maps are available for public download at nationalmap.gov/alaska.

Denali’s height was mapped and measured in 1952 by mountaineer Bradford Washburn at 20,320 feet, based on photography. That number was later lowered by 14 feet in a 1989 field survey.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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