Golden Heart History: Walter Harper, the first man to summit Denali

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) History was made on June 7, 1913, when they mighty Denali was conquered by Walter Harper, an Athabaskan-Irish man. Now over 100 years later, Harper is being remembered through a statue being built in Fairbanks and a day dedicated to him.

Credit: Walter Harper Project (June 5, 2020)

Senator Click Bishop helped push Senate Bill 144 to help create Walter Harper Day. Bishop wanted honor those that accomplished this feat.

"We're coming up on June 7 here and Senate Bill 144 recognizing June 7 as Walter Harper Day," said Bishop. "Those people that associated with that expedition it was truly an amazing feat."

Harper, who took on the over 20,300 feet mountain, is a hero to mountain climbers and Native Alaskans. Harper was a part of the Hudson Stuck expedition, who had praise for Walter in a letter on summit day.

“Twenty-one years old and six feet tall, he took gleefully to high mountaineering, while his kindliness and invincible amiability endeared him to every member of the party.” wrote Stuck.

Harper only lived to 25 years old, dying when the Princess Sophia, a boat that he was on, crashed into reef. However, his legacy lives on through the Walter Harper Project.

"I think therefore it's something we should be proud of," said Mike Harper of the Walter Harper Project. "I think relatively few people in Alaska or anywhere really know that this happened. People do not know Walter Harper, and we're thankful that Senator Bishop took upon himself to introduce the bill and get a Walter Harper Day established for all of us."

This Sunday June 7, 2020, this will be the first time that Walter Harper Day will be celebrated.

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