It is embarrassing to say that I did not know who first climbed Denali before reading this book. Now I do, and it's complicated. During the 1910's, there was a lot of interest in climbing this mountain. The Ascent of Denali tells about at least two of the other expeditions in the previous two years, one of which missed the summit by merely a few hundred feet, and the other one which did summit the lower North Peak, but, because of the actions of one of their members, had not been believed.
The people on the expedition were the author, Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum, the last two both 21. There were also two 14 or 15 year-old native boys who helped establish and maintain the base camp, but did not climb the mountain. All but Tatum had been living and traveling in Alaska, and were used to the extreme cold.
This expedition was well-planned and still hellishly difficult. The first problem was the break-down of the boat they planned to use to take their supplies into the Denali area. (Back then, people climbing Denali apparently didn't take helicopters from Talketna.) Then half the climbing supplies ordered from the east coast (in February for a trip in March of the following year) never showed up, and the ice axes were little toy ice axes. New York did not have crampons at all. So they had to have ice axes, crampons, and silk tents made in Fairbanks. They had a fire on their way up that destroyed a significant part of their supplies, including their silk tents. Worst of all was their discovery that an earthquake that occurred immediately after one of the previous expeditions had turned back had ruined several miles of the ridge they were to climb by taking large chunks out of it and leaving some of the ice balanced as large ice blocks. Hudson said they pushed one of these the size of a two-story house off the ridge two thousand feet onto the glacier below. It took them three weeks to get up this ridge by the slow dangerous process of cutting steps that would make it passable.
Other than unexpected problems and the expected, but still terrible cold, I found it interesting that they used dog sleds until they had crossed the first glacier on the mountain, that they used their dogs to haul firewood in stages to their camps, that they made the entire climb in moccasins that they tied crampons to, and that they prepared their pemmican themselves at their base camp from game they shot. Not at all the kind of climbing that you hear about now.