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Denali (Mount McKinley) from the north side of the mountain, where it was first ascended by Hudson Stuck. The North Peak is to the right and the South Peak (or highpoint) is to the left. (Photo by Todd Jenner)



Denali: First Ascent by a Man of God

By Todd Jenner

In 1913, a missionary in Alaska named Hudson Stuck – a man of God – pioneered a route to make the first ascent of Denali. During those gold-rush times, he commented: “I would rather climb that mountain than discover the richest gold-mine in Alaska.”¹

Get to the top he did, at the age of 50, and then he went on to say: “So soon as wind was recovered we shook hands all round and a brief prayer of thanksgiving to Almighty God was said, that He granted us our hearts’ desire and brought us safely to the top of His great mountain.”²

He further states, “There was no pride of conquest, no trace of that exultation of victory some enjoy upon the first ascent of a lofty peak, no gloating over good fortune that had hoisted us few hundred feet higher than others who had struggled and been discomfited. Rather was the feeling that a privileged communion with the high places of the earth had been granted; ... seeing all things as they spread out from the windows of heaven itself.”³

He said far better than their scientific instruments to record and describe would be that simple ancient hymn “We praise Thee, O God! – Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy Glory!”

Most climbers would only be intensely interested in the true recording of history of the first ascent of this mountain and it just happens to have been done by a man of God who by his own admission “was more interested in men than mountains.” Denali is extremely rich in mountaineering history. And what a mission field – one where the very first man who led a team to the top was a man of God. This, the history, we have to share.

Hudson Stuck pioneered a route to the top of that mountain in 1913 and now you, too, are pioneering a route to also strive for a high and lofty goal. It is one I’m certain Hudson Stuck would approve of.

Todd Jenner, a Climbing For Christ board member who lives in Cameron, N.Y., retraced Stuck's route in 1994 when he was 50. They summitted on June 7, the anniversary date of Stuck's original climb. He also gathered his group together and said a prayer of thanksgiving on the summit.

¹ Stuck, Hudson, The Ascent of Denali: The 1913 Expedition that First Conquered Mt. McKinley (Wolfe Publishing Co., Inc., 1988), p. 3.
² Ibid, p. 99.
³ Ibid, p. 108.


The Word

“What an astonishing thing that, standing where we stood (on the summit of Denali) and seeing what we saw, there are men who should be able to deduce this law or that from their observation of its working and yet be unable to see the Lawgiver! ... who can say, 'This is the glacier's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes,' and not see Him 'Who in His Strength setteth fast the mountains and is girded with power' (Psalm 65:6), Whose servants the glaciers, the snow, and the ice are, 'wind and storm fulfilling His Word' (Psalm 148:8); who exult in the exercise of their own intelligences and the play-things those intelligences have constructed and yet deny the Omniscience that endowed them with some minute fragment of Itself!”

— Hudson Stuck
Episcopal minister in his book The Ascent of Denali: The 1913 Expedition that First Conquered Mt. McKinley


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