TALKEETNA, Alaska — Lonnie Dupre, a polar explorer who has travelled more than 15,000 miles in Arctic and polar regions, is back off Denali after harsh weather cut short his attempt at a solo ascent.
Dupre, from Minnesota, spent more than 20 days on the mountain -- but says this is one of the shortest expeditions he's been on, and that he expected to take a month to reach the top. Only 16 people have ever reached the 20,320-foot summit of Denali in winter.
“I was basically 13 hours from reaching the summit,” Dupre said. “We had winds of 80 to 100 mph, with temperatures 30 below zero -- it was really cold that time, especially when you get up high.”
Looking at 49-year old Dupre, it would be hard to guess that it was just a few days ago when he returned from an attempt to be the first solo climber to summit the mountain in January, a time of year when the weather can be brutal.
“First thing I did was take a shower so other people can be around me,” Dupre said.
Dupre started his ascent early this month, creating snow caves for shelter along the way. He survived off of 170 pounds of food and equipment, as well as his 25 years of experience.
“You gotta look at, ‘I’m going to get over the little bump in the hill, and the next day this part of the hill;’ you break it up into segments that are manageable,” Dupre said.
But after 22 days, bad weather forced him to turn back.
“The biggest challenge I made on this trip is making the decision to come down from 17,000 feet,” Dupre said.
Dupre’s leftover supplies from his expedition now serve as proof of an ascent cut short, but he’s also bringing home his passion for the climb.
“To be able to see the mountains, being inside the range and seeing sunrises, sunset, the colors of magenta in the cold period in the morning on the snowscape, is a gift that few people get to see,” Dupre said.
It’s a rare experience Dupre says he doesn't regret -- on a mountain he may meet again.
Dupre says he came back with just a few blisters from frostbite and minor injuries to his foot. He is returning to Minnesota Monday.
Contact Christine Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org