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Grand Marais climber leaves Mount McKinley

Grand Marais climber Lonnie Dupre was whisked off Mount McKinley and back to Talkeetna, Alaska, by air taxi Friday afternoon after 22 days in a solo attempt to reach the summit of the 20,320-foot peak.

Lonnie Dupre
Lonnie Dupre on the summit at midnight in June 2010

Grand Marais climber Lonnie Dupre was whisked off Mount McKinley and back to Talkeetna, Alaska, by air taxi Friday afternoon after 22 days in a solo attempt to reach the summit of the 20,320-foot peak.

He had hoped to become the first solo climber to reach the summit of Mount McKinley, also called Denali, in January but was forced to give up his attempt when high winds pinned him for five days at 17,200 feet.

"I wouldn't have changed a thing," Dupre said in a brief telephone conversation from Talkeetna on Friday night. "Denali is a mountain about weather."

Dupre had reached 17,200 feet on Day 13 of the climb. He gave up his attempt to reach the summit on Tuesday, when he climbed down after spending five days and six nights in a snow cave where he was pinned down by winds up to 100 mph.

"He is in good spirits and is looking forward to a nice, fresh green salad and a glass of red wine," wrote expedition manager Tom Suprenant on Dupre's website, www.lonniedupre.com . "All is well."

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Dupre also weathered an earthquake of 5.4 magnitude that occurred Saturday evening about 30 miles from his snow trench near the top of the mountain. The quake shook his trench, and Dupre feared he would be buried in snow, Suprenant said.

Dupre, 49, made excellent progress early in his climb but fell victim to a low-pressure system that battered the mountain with relentless winds while Dupre was at 17,200 feet.

Only nine expeditions totaling 16 people have reached the summit of Mount McKinley in winter. Six deaths resulted from those climbs. Only one team has made the summit in January. Two Russians in a team of three climbers made that successful ascent in 1998.

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