Denali In January: Lonnie Is Heading Up!

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Before I left for a little winter fun in Montana last week, I posted a couple of updates on polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre, who is attempting a solo assault on Denali in January, something that had never been accomplished before. When last I checked in on his progress, Lonnie was stuck in Talkeetna and waiting for a weather window just to get to BC. Since then however, the weather has cleared and he has started his climb.

In his last dispatch, Dupre was reportedly making good progress amidst decent weather, at least by Alaskan winter standards. High winds were an issue a few days back, but they seem to have quieted down and conditions are expected to improve even more as the week goes on. As of last night, he hoped to be as high as 11,200 feet (3413 meters) on the mountain. If he achieved that goal, he knocked off 2000 vertical feet in one day, which is a pretty impressive feat considering he’s been battling 50mph head winds off the glacier.

As I mentioned before, Lonnie is making this climb without the use of a tent, and is instead building snow caves along the way to sever as his shelter. He reports that digging those caves has become more challenging as he moves up the mountain, as the snow has moved from the soft, powdery variety to the more icy, hard pack type. As a result, after spending a day climbing, he is also spending a couple of hours each night creating a cozy space to spend the evening. Still, with weather conditions improving, it seems that he is happy with the progress so far.

Standing 20,320 feet (6193 meters) in height, Denali is North America’s tallest mountain. It has been scaled in January before, but only once. That was back in 1998 when a team of Russians managed to accomplish the impressive feat of topping out during the coldest, darkest month of the year. Dupre hopes to match that climb, and if the weather holds, it seems like he as a great shot of doing just that.

The hard part is yet to come however, so stay tuned for updates.

Kraig Becker