Denali In January: Weather Holds As Lonnie Moves Up

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It has been a few days since we checked in on Lonnie Dupre, the climber and polar explorer who is hoping to make the first solo summit of Denali in January. During that time, Lonnie has been climbing higher on the mountain to drop supply caches and to build snow caves, in preparation for his final assault on the summit.

Yesterday was rest day for Dupre, and it seems like it was a good day to lay low. His home team says that the skies were clear, but that high winds made for extremely cold temperatures and blowing snow. The climber is currently at 14,200 feet, but plans to head further up today. His next milestone will be stopping at 15,500 feet to retrieve a cache and to catch his breath, before climbing to his next camp, located at 17,200 feet along the West Buttress ridge.

What happens next will be determined by the weather. The mountain stands 20,320 feet in height, but is subjected to some of the worst weather on the planet. Especially in January. If the weather holds, Dupre will challenge the more difficult sections of the mountain that are still ahead of him, and are no doubt covered in deep snow. The final stages of the climb will not be easy, with altitude, extreme cold, high winds, and technical challenges all conspiring against him.

Only 16 people have ever stood on top of Denali in winter, and just three of those have done it in January. A solo climb of the mountain during that month is a daring, but daunting, adventure. But Dupre has years of experience in polar climes and is use to the cold. If he doesn’t make it to the top, it’ll be for other reasons. He has 11 more days to reach the summit and make his January deadline. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he seems like he is in a good position to do that, although the weather is unpredictable on the mountain, and you never know what obstacles may arise.

Kraig Becker