Arctic explorer embarks on Solo climb of Denali

by Phillip Manning

Alpine adventurer Lonnie Dupre has reached the base camp of Denali after nearly a week of waiting for clear weather for his flight. Dupre hopes to make a solo ascent north America’s highest peak in the month of January, but has had to spend nearly a week longer in Talkeetna than he had hoped. Progress of Dupre’s third solo attempt of an fast-paced climb can be followed on his blog and facebook page.

While the recent rain and warm temperatures might make it easy to forget, we are in the midst of winter, and far from the busy Denali climbing season of May and June.  The cold, harsh weather keeps most mountaineers away from Denali, but there are a few brave souls that have their hearts set on reaching the summit in the unforgiving cold of an interior Alaskan winter.  Lonnie Dupre is one such climber, and KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with him about his upcoming attempt to be the first solo climber to reach the summit and return safely in the month of January.Denali, or Mt. McKinley as it is still known outside of Alaska, is one of the most challenging and potentially deadly climbs in the world.   Hurricane strength winds and frostbite-inducing temperatures await those who attempt to reach the summit, even in the summer.  Conditions on the mountain in the winter test even the most prepared mountaineers to, and sometimes past, the breaking point.

These dangers have not kept climbers away in the 100 years since the first successful summit attempt, however. Each winter, a few brave souls board airplanes bound for the Alaska Range with their eyes set on one of its frigid summits.  I had the opportunity to sit down with one of those adventurous mountaineers, Lonnie Dupre, and discuss his upcoming attempt to be the first to travel solo to the summit in the month of January.  This will be Dupre’s third attempt at a winter ascent, and he described some of the differences in preparing for and executing a winter climb.

Lonnie Dupre 1-2

While summer expeditions usually plan approximately three weeks to complete the trip, allowing for acclimatization and weather delays, the harsh winter conditions have Dupre planning for around four weeks, but has supplies to last 45 days if necessary.

Dupre’s expedition is more than just attempting the first solo January ascent, however.  He explained how this expedition is also about raising awareness about the state of the arctic climate.

Lonnie Dupre 2-2

The captivating tool in this case is a documentary called Cold Love, which will cover the 2013 Denali expedition as well as footage from some of Earth’s coldest places.  As of the time of the interview, Dupre hopes the documentary will be complete by next autumn.  Dupre’s entire trek will be documented online via a blog and Facebook page as well, with updates made by his crew on the ground, who will maintain communication via satellite phone.  Additional information on how to follow the expedition and about the Cold Love documentary can be found online at the One World Endeavors website

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