Empire Editorial: Stand tall Denali

It’s a fact of life that as the years pass one can get a bit shorter — what a shock it must have been to North America’s largest peak when the cold eye of science finally determined Denali’s height.

 

There’s a tourist-oriented seasonal restaurant at a Princess lodge just outside of Trapper Creek named for Denali’s (Mt. McKinley’s to some) previous height, 20,320 feet.

The food will likely be just as good but… will they have to change the name?

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell broke the news to the International Map Collectors’ Society’s gathering in Fairbanks that the mountain may actually be 20,237 feet tall.

“That’s 83 feet shorter than we thought,” Treadwell told them. “The good news is: Denali is still the tallest peak in North America.”

The new readings come from a 2012 “digital elevation map” the state compiled through working with many federal agencies.

Alaska has spent $9.59 million on updating 50-year-old maps. And the federal government kicked-in $14 million. They’re half-done with a project scheduled for completion in 2016, and already 400 new topographical maps were recently released for the public to download as needed. Eventually they will generate 11,000 new maps covering our whole state.

We think it’s great that Alaska is finally being more accurately mapped. This is vital for aviation, science and natural resources exploration.

So, while this example of a mapping “find” falls under “fun facts” as well as “hard science,” we commend those who are working to make Alaska a safer place and give the public the tools we need to survey our state’s wildlands without getting into a helicopter.

Those who get the chance to see Denali, Foraker and all of its fabled neighbors have more on their minds than base measurements, anyway.

Ask anyone who has seen that mountain range — locals, tourists or, especially, any climber who has reached the summit, or failed to and gone back to base camp — those 83 feet don’t mean a thing when one beholds the tremendous majesty of Denali’s often cloud-wreathed slopes, ridges and buttresses.

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