Dupre flown off Mount McKinleyAfter 19 days alone on Alaska’s Mount McKinley, Grand Marais adventurer Lonnie Dupre is back in the small town of Talkeetna. An air taxi was able to retrieve him from base camp at 7,200 feet on the mountain Monday afternoon.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
After 19 days alone on Alaska’s Mount McKinley, Grand Marais adventurer Lonnie Dupre is back in the small town of Talkeetna.
An air taxi was able to land at base camp at 7,200 feet on the mountain Monday afternoon. Along with the pilot, the plane carried the two members of Dupre’s support team.
“It was wonderful to see them as well as knowing I wouldn’t have to spend anymore nights underneath the snow,” Dupre posted on his website late Monday. “3 showers, 2 beers and 1 good dinner back in Talkeetna and it’s time to hit the sack… or better yet a REAL BED.”
While waiting for the plane to arrive at base camp, Dupre visited with Japanese climber Masatoshi Kuriaki, who is making his sixth attempt to become the first person to climb the 14,573-foot Mount Hunter solo in winter.
Masatoshi’s last attempt, in 2010, saw him spend 83 days on the mountain, including 53 days spent hunkered down snowcaves, waiting for weather to clear, according to KTNA-FM 88.9, Talkeetna community radio.
“This time he says he’s brought enough supplies to stay on the mountain for 100 days, if that is what it takes,” the station reported in December.
Masatoshi climbed McKinley, also known as Denali, solo during the winter of 1998.
Dupre decided Friday to abandon his second attempt to become the first person to reach Mount McKinley’s 20,320-foot summit — the highest point in North America — solo in January after being pinned down at 14,200 feet by strong winds for nearly a week. He reached base camp early Monday after a difficult three-day descent.
Dupre descended to 11,200 feet Friday, using two ice axes and crampons to prevent himself from being blown away as he rounded the aptly named Windy Corner at 13,200 feet. While descending an icy slope at 12,000 feet, however, wind gusts that Dupre estimated to be up to 80 mph blew him off his feet. He was able to stop his fall with his ice axes. He finished descending the hill by going backward using both ice axes and his crampons to prevent being blown off his feet again.
High winds and bad visibility continued to hinder Dupre on Saturday, Sunday and early Monday. On Saturday, he had difficulties finding the bamboo wands he had placed on the ascent to mark the route. On Sunday, he left 7,800-foot camp for the five-mile trip to 7,200-foot base camp but was caught in a blizzard in the afternoon. Whiteout conditions prevented him from departing one bamboo wand since he couldn’t see the next.
“He then tried to dig down but hit solid ice only 3 feet below him and then walked as far as the visibility would allow, tried digging down again and ran into the same problem,” his website said. “Lonnie, laying flat in a snowcave no more than 18 inches high, tried to get a few hours of rest through the weather conditions.”
About 2:30 a.m. Monday, the weather subsided and Dupre continued to base camp, arriving about 4:30 a.m. Alaska time. An air taxi will take him off the mountain as soon as the weather allows.
Dupre, 50, tried climbing McKinley last January, but bad weather stopped him at 17,200 feet.
A team of two Russians reached the summit in January 1998. In total, only 16 climbers from nine expeditions have reached the summit during the winter. Six climbers died on those expeditions.