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A 71-year-old man has become the oldest person to climb to the top of North America's highest peak, Mount McKinley, the National Park Service reported Thursday.

Not only did Donald Henry of Boston make it to the 20,320-foot summit, but he did it very fast, in eight days, said mountaineering ranger Scott Gill in Talkeetna, a town that serves as a gateway for climbers in Denali National Park.Henry was well aware that he was climbing into the record books, Gill said, supplanting a 68-year-old climber who held the distinction since reaching the summit in 1976.

"You bet he knew he was going to be breaking the record," Gill said. "He was real inspirational. He was in very good shape and had a real good head on his shoulders. He's a real good model."

Henry reached the peak some time Monday in a guided expedition, Gill said.

Henry tried climbing McKinley last year, too, but failed to reach the summit, largely because of bad weather that plagued the 813 climbers who tried. Fewer than one-third made it.