Photo: Lonnie Dupre departing from basecamp 19 days ago. Dmitri von Klein/MONOVITA
After 19 days on North America’s tallest mountain, Arctic explorer and climber Lonnie Dupre has abandoned his third attempt to become the first person to summit Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) alone in the month of January. Several factors forced Minnesota-native Dupre to make the decision to begin descending the Alaska mountain on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013.
As he did during his first attempt to successfully summit Denali in 2011, Dupre reached high camp at 17,200. He had hoped that after a 12-hour climb from the 14,200 camp, he could make the final push to the summit today. However, extremely hard snow made it impossible to build a safe snow cave at 17,200, and instead of getting much needed rest, he spent the entire night trying to keep the cave — and himself — warm. When he called his base camp at 4 a.m. on January 27, it was -35 degrees F in the snow cave.
It was virtually a life-or-death decision for Dupre. Even if he had made the summit today, which would have meant a 12-hour or more travel day between 17,200 and the summit and back, he knew he would not have had the energy or means to survive back at the 17,200 camp. Monday’s predicted 50 mph winds and cold temperatures would translate into a windchill of -50 degrees F. Combined with an unfavorable long-term forecast and dwindling food and fuel supplies, Dupre knew his chance of survival would be minimal. “These storms on Denali can last a long time,” said Dupre, “and a climber should never be caught with less then three days of food and eight days of fuel at any point.”
Today, Dupre is making his way down the mountain, and will continue his descent back to the 7,200 base camp as weather permits. Although disappointed that his third consecutive try at a solo summit in January was not successful, Dupre does not consider his expedition a failure. During the expedition, he conducted research and gathered microbe samples for the Biosphere 2 project run by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.The data will give a better understanding of how climate change affects the production of living matter in extreme environments.