It was a rough weekend on Denali for Lonnie Dupre, who was hoping to make the first solo ascent of that mountain in January. After establishing his high camp last week, the weather took a turn for the worse, with temperatures dropping dramatically and winds increasing to dangerous levels. Despite those conditions however, the weather forecasts called for a potential weather window that would allow him to go to the summit sometime over the weekend . But that window never opened, and after spending several days stuck inside a snow cave, he elected to pull the plug on the entire expedition.
Lonnie spent the weekend descending the mountain in horrible conditions. Updates to his website say that the visibility was almost non-existent and winds topped out at 97 mph (156 km/h). Additionally, temperatures fell to a bone-numbing -72ºF/-58ºC, and with a revised forecast saying the weather pattern had settled in for at least a week, the climber made the wise decision to head home.
This marks the second year in a row that weather has halted Dupre’s attempt at history on North America’s tallest peak. Last year, under similar conditions, he was left stranded in a snow cave for moe than a week, while a blizzard raged outside. I’m sure he wasn’t eager to repeat that scenario, which is why he left the relative safety of his cave and headed down this time out.
As of this morning, Lonnie was in Base Camp at 7200 feet (2194 meters), where he’ll wait for a plane to come pick him up. That won’t happen until the weather improve either, but at lower altitudes the conditions can be quite different. Hopefully he’ll be safely extracted over the next day or two, and on his way home soon there after.