Northland climber seizes break in bad weather on Mount McKinley, descends to regroupSeizing a window of favorable weather, Grand Marais climber Lonnie Dupre descended from 17,200 feet on Mount McKinley to a previous camp at 14,200 feet Tuesday, according to an update on his website.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Seizing a window of favorable weather, Grand Marais climber Lonnie Dupre descended from 17,200 feet on Mount McKinley to a previous camp at 14,200 feet Tuesday, according to an update on his website.
Dupre made the trip in eight hours, according to expedition manager Tom Suprenant, in Talkeetna, Alaska. He said Dupre arrived “tired and weak” at the lower camp.
Dupre, who had been pinned down by winds up to 100 mph for six nights, took advantage of a small window of improved weather on the Alaska mountain to make his descent, Suprenant said. He planned to regroup at the lower camp and then decide whether to make another attempt at the summit.
The climber and polar adventurer left his higher camp at 9:30 a.m. Alaska time, 12:30 p.m. Minnesota time.
Weather conditions improved on Tuesday after a low pressure system moved out.
Dupre had hoped to become the first solo climber to reach the summit of Mount McKinley, also called Denali, in January. Only nine expeditions totaling
16 people have reached the 20,320-foot summit in winter. Six deaths resulted from those climbs. Only one team has made the summit in January.
In making his descent, Dupre had to travel a knife-edge ridge along the West Buttress from 17,200 feet down to 16,200 feet, then descend a steep wall to his 14,200-foot camp, where he had cached food, fuel and a second sleeping bag on his ascent.
Dupre also had to face the possibility that conditions changed on his return route after an earthquake of magnitude 5.4 on Saturday evening about 30 miles from Dupre’s camp at 17,200 feet.
Tuesday marked just the second time Dupre had been out of his snow trench at 17,200 feet in the previous five days.
Dupre and Suprenant talked early Tuesday about attempting the summit of Denali on Tuesday but rejected the idea because the window of decent weather appeared to be too short.
“It didn’t look like (the weather break) was going to be long enough to go up and down on the summit,” Suprenant said. “The conditions are as good as they’re going to get, but marginal. When you do something like that, that’s when you die.”
So, Dupre headed down. The descent took half the time of his 16-hour ascent up that route.
He began his climb Jan. 7 at 7,200 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier.
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