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With new name, former Mount McKinley gets new height

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- North America's tallest mountain doesn't just have a new name. It also has a new elevation.

Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is now officially 10 feet shorter, measuring 20,310 feet at its highest point, the U.S. Geological Survey announced yesterday. The previous measurement of 20,320 feet stemmed from a 1953 survey that used the technology of the time, officials said. The new elevation is the result of data collected from the mountain by climbers in June, using technology that didn't exist in the earlier survey, such as GPS instruments.

The change is part of a continuing USGS program to update elevations in Alaska and elsewhere. The agency has a program that uses radar to collect more elevations over large areas in Alaska, but the Denali survey was unusual because it involved actual ground measurements, said Kari Craun, director of the USGS National Geospatial Technical Operations Center.

The climb to gather the data from Denali began June 15 and involved one climber from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and three from the private survey company CompassData Inc., USGS spokesman Mark Newell said. During 14 days on the mountain, the climbers pulled equipment and supplies on sleds.

The change comes just days after the Obama administration announced its decision to bestow the traditional Alaska Native name to the mountain on the eve of president's visit to Alaska. The change to Denali -- an Athabascan word meaning "the high one" -- replaces the name that honored William McKinley, the 25th president, who never set foot in Alaska. -- AP

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