Highest Peak in North America to be Surveyed

A new GPS survey of Mount McKinley, the highest point in North America, will update the commonly accepted elevation of McKinley’s peak, 20,320 ft. The last survey was completed in 1953.

Jun 15, 2015 -- The USGS, along with NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey ( NGS), and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), are supporting a Global Positioning System ( GPS) survey of the Mount McKinley apex. Surveying technology and processes have improved greatly since the last survey and the ability to establish a much more accurate height now exists. With the acquisition of new elevation ( ifsar) data in Alaska as part of the 3D Elevation Program, there have been inquiries about the height of the summit. The survey party is being led by CompassData, a subcontractor for Dewberry on a task awarded under the USGS’ Geospatial Products and Services Contract ( GPSC).

Using modern GPS survey equipment and techniques, along with better gravity data to improve the geoid model in Alaska, the partners will be able to report the summit elevation with a much higher level of confidence than has been possible in the past. It is anticipated the newly surveyed elevation will be published by the National Geodetic Survey in late August.

An experienced team of four climbers, one from UAF and three from CompassData, will start the precarious trek to the summit with the needed scientific instruments in tow, in the middle part of June. They plan to return on or before July 7 and begin work with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and NGS processing the data to arrive at the new summit elevation.

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At 20, 320 feet, Mount McKinley is North America’s highest peak. (Photo courtesy of Todd Paris, UAF). ( High resolution image) Climbing Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak, is a daunting task for even the most experienced mountaineers at Denali National Park in Alaska. (Photo courtesy of National Geographic). ( High resolution image) The Mount McKinley survey team, and their equipment, are expected to face temperatures well below zero, high winds and frequent snow. Current forecast, courtesy of NOAA. (Photo courtesy of Todd Paris, UAF). ( High resolution image)

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