Mount Blackburn is the highest peak in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska in the United States. It is the fifth-highest peak in the United States and the twelfth-highest peak in North America. The mountain is an old, eroded shield volcano, the second-highest volcano in the U.S. behind Mount Bona and the fifth-highest in North America. It was named in 1885 by Lt. Henry T. Allen of the U.S. Army after Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn, a U.S. senator from Kentucky. It is located in the heart of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the country.
The mountain's massif is covered almost entirely by icefields and glaciers, and is the principal source of ice for the Kennicott Glacier, which flows southeast over 20 miles (32 km) to just above the town of McCarthy. The mountain also contributes a large volume of ice to the north-flowing Nabesna Glacier and the Kuskulana Glacier system.
Mount Blackburn is a large, dramatic peak, with great local relief and independence from higher peaks. Its west face drops over 11,000 ft (3,350 m) to the Kuskulana Glacier in less than 4 horizontal miles (6.4 km). Its other faces drop 8,000–10,000 ft (2,440–3,050 m), all in less than 8 miles (13 km). The toe of the Kuskulana Glacier, less than 12 miles (19 km) from the summit, lies at an elevation of 2,400 ft (730 m), giving a rise of 14,000 ft (4,270 m). While these figures speak to the peak's relief, one measure of its independence is that it is the 50th-most topographically prominent peak in the world.
The western of Blackburn's two summits is the mountain's highest point, a fact that was not understood until the 1960s when new USGS maps were published. The first ascent of the west peak, and hence Mount Blackburn, was done on May 30, 1958, by Bruce Gilbert, Dick Wahlstrom, Hans Gmoser, Adolf Bitterlich, and Leon Blumer via the North (also called the Northwest) Ridge. This team made the first ascent of Blackburn, but did not even know it at the time due to the incorrect identification of the highest point. In fact, Blumer's article in the 1959 American Alpine Journal is titled "Mount Blackburn – Second Ascent."
By elevation Mount Blackburn is
# 11 out of 3806 in Alaska # 11 out of 91437 in USA # 2 out of 109 in Wrangell–St. Elias National Park # 2 out of 1793 in Unorganized Borough # 1 out of 847 in the South-Central Alaska
By prominence Mount Blackburn is
# 3 out of 3806 in Alaska # 5 out of 91437 in USA # 1 out of 109 in Wrangell–St. Elias National Park # 2 out of 1793 in Unorganized Borough # 1 out of 847 in the South-Central Alaska
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