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    by Former Senator Mark Begich

    Posted on 2013-03-18

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    BEGICH. Mr. President, today I would like to recognize the centennial anniversary of the first successful ascent of the south peak of Mount McKinley. In Alaska, the mountain is popularly known as Denali, which means the ``Great One'' in Dena'ina language. At 20,320 feet, the south peak is the tallest of its two peaks, and makes Mount McKinley North America's tallest mountain.

    Although other climbers attempted the climb or claimed to have summited McKinley before 1913, Walter Harper, Hudson Stuck, Robert Tatum, and Harry Karstens were the first to complete their journey to the top. Among the party, it was Harper, an Athabascan, who was the first to stand on the south summit after a month-long expedition that started with a mush from Fairbanks by a dog team.

    The unsung hero of this accomplishment was another Alaska Native, 16- year-old John Fredson, who travelled with the group and cared for the sled dogs at base camp while waiting for the climbing team to return. This story of triumph and courage underscores the importance of Alaska Natives in the great age of American exploration.

    To commemorate the centennial, the Denali 2013 Centennial Climb has been organized. The official party's ascent will commence June 7, 2013, and includes ancestors of the original team: Dana Wright of Fairbanks, the great-grandnephew of Harper; Dan Hopkins, from Ottawa, Ontario, who is the great-great-nephew of Stuck; Ken Karstens, from Colorado; and Ray Schuenemann, from Dallas, Texas, both of whom are great-grandsons of Karstens.

    Stuck was a missionary for the Episcopal Church and Archdeacon of the Yukon back in 1913. Stuck had hoped to celebrate communion atop the peak. As part of the recreation of the historic ascent, Mark Lattime, the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska and Reverend at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Fairbanks, will join the climbing party and celebrate communion at the peak.

    The spirit of adventure is something that we embrace as Alaskans and Americans. Let us take this moment to acknowledge this significant achievement of our predecessors and wish the 2013 party a safe and successful climb. ____________________

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