Published January 28, 2013, 12:00 AM

Grand Marais adventurer Dupre abandons McKinley summit attempt

Pummeled by bad weather and with supplies running low, the Grand Marais adventurer Sunday abandoned his third attempt to become the first person to solo climb Alaska’s 20,320-foot Mount McKinley in January.

By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune

The third time was not a charm for Lonnie Dupre.

Pummeled by bad weather and with supplies running low, the Grand Marais adventurer Sunday abandoned his third attempt to become the first person to solo climb Alaska’s 20,320-foot Mount McKinley in January.

“It was virtually a life-or-death decision for Dupre,” his support team wrote in a news release issued shortly before 10 a.m. Central time Sunday.

“Even if he had made the summit today, which would have meant a 12-hour or more travel day between 17,200 and the summit and back, he knew he would not have had the energy or means to survive back at the 17,200 camp,” the release said. “Monday’s predicted 50 mph winds and cold temperatures would translate into a windchill of -50 degrees F. Combined with an unfavorable long-term forecast and dwindling food and fuel supplies, Dupre knew his chance of survival would be minimal.”

“These storms on Denali can last a long time, and a climber should never be caught with less than three days of food and eight days of fuel at any point,” Dupre said in the news release.

McKinley — also known as Denali — is North America’s highest mountain.

Dupre reached high camp at 17,200 feet on Friday, after climbing nearly 12 hours from 14,200 feet in temperatures of 35 below zero and winds of 40 mph. He planned to rest Saturday and, weather permitting, attempt to reach the summit and return to high camp Sunday.

But extremely hard snow had made it impossible to build a good snow cave at high camp, and instead of getting much-needed rest, Dupre spent the night trying to stay warm. The temperature in the snow cave was 35 below zero when he called his support crew at 4 a.m. Sunday.

Dupre started descending the mountain Sunday, and will head as weather allows to base camp at 7,200 feet, where a plane will take him off the mountain. Dupre started his climb from 7,200 feet on Jan. 8.

“Although disappointed that his third consecutive try at a solo summit in January was not successful, Dupre does not consider his expedition a failure,” the release said. “During the expedition, he conducted research and gathered microbe samples for the Biosphere 2 project run by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. The data will give a better understanding of how climate change affects the production of living matter in extreme environments.”

Another purpose of Dupre’s climb was to make a 20-minute documentary film called “Cold Love” to call attention to climate change.

Severe weather also thwarted Dupre’s attempts to reach the summit in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, he also reached 17,200 feet, where he was pinned down by high winds and ran low on food. Last winter, Dupre called it quits after being pinned down at 14,200 feet for nearly a week by hurricane-force winds.

A team of two Russians reached the summit in January 1998. In total, 16 climbers from nine expeditions have reached McKinley’s summit during the winter. Six climbers died on those expeditions.

Dupre to talk in Duluth
Dupre is scheduled to talk about his expeditions on Mount McKinley, around Greenland and to the North Pole on Feb. 19 as part of Duluth Pack’s 2013 Outdoor Adventure Series. The free presentation starts at 7 p.m. at the store, 365 Canal Park Drive.
Go to duluthpack.com to learn more about the series.

Tags: