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Lonnie Dupre Solos Denali in January

Lonnie Dupre is a Minnesota-based climber who just found a place in the history books by becoming the first climber to summit Denali in January. He climbed solo. The first solo winter ascent of Denali was in 1988 by Vern Tejas. Dupre’s ascent comes during a week of major accomplishments in American climbing. Tommy Caldwell and Keving Jorgeson freed the Dawn Wall and Daniel Woods sent a long-standing boulder problem in Bishop, which Woods called The Process, a potential V16.

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Lonnie Dupre on Denali Photo Lonnie Dupre

Dupre spent nearly a month climbing through winter conditions with wind up to 100 mph. “Glad to be there, also glad to have it behind me and just overjoyed with the view you can obtain from the summit,” said Dupre. Dupre tried the feat twice before, but bad weather kept pushing him back. He said he was never sure he could make it, “Because I was trying so hard for four years I kind of broke down a little,” he said. After the climb, Dupre had a salad, macaroons and some local Denali beer on the plane home.

Media Release

Arctic explorer and climber Lonnie Dupre became the first to summit Denali aka Mount McKinley in January, alone. On Dec. 18, 2014 Dupre flew to basecamp. With winter winds regularly exceeding 100 mph, temperatures dropping below -60º F, and just six hours of sunlight each day, January is a formidable time on Denali, whose elevation of 6,194 metres makes it North America’s highest mountain. Dupre reached the summit at on January 11, 2015.

Dupre flew to the Kahiltna Glacier at the base of Denali on December 18th, 2014 carrying 34 days worth of supplies. Only nine expeditions, totaling 16 people, have ever reached the Denali summit in winter, and six deaths occurred during those climbs. Of these previous winter expeditions, four were solo, but none in January, the darkest and coldest time of the year on the mountain. Only a team of three Russian climbers has ever successfully summited Denali in January.

Lonnie Dupre with his spruce pole that would prevent him from falling into crevasses on his way up Denali. Photo John Walter Whittier
Lonnie Dupre with his spruce pole that would prevent him from falling into crevasses on his way up Denali. Photo John Walter Whittier

“The low visibility and extreme winds made ending up in a crevasse or being blown from you feet and off the mountain a real possibility. I constantly paid close attention to my footing,” said Dupre.

Dupre has spent a total of 60 days during the last three winters on Denali, during which he made two fast ascents to 5,000 metres only to be thwarted by bad weather just hours from the summit. He pulled a two-metre sled with 165 lbs of supplies on the mountain’s lower elevations, then switch to backpacking supplies up the steeper parts. He also carried 175 bamboo wands to mark the route, dangerous crevasses and his camps, increasing his chances for a safe return, which is when most climbing deaths occur.

Dupre, a resident of Grand Marais, Minnesota, brings 25 years of Arctic exploration to his most recent endeavor. His accomplishments include being the first to circumnavigate Greenland by non-motorized transport, and reaching the North Pole in two separate expeditions.

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