If there are two things you can say about Lonnie Dupre, its that he loves the cold and he is certainly persistent. The polar explorer has spent plenty of time in the arctic over they years to make the first statement undeniable and if there were any doubts about the second statement, they are now put to rest. Dupre has announced that for the third straight year, he’ll be returning to Denali in early 2013 to attempt the first ever solo ascent of that mountain in January.
The 6196 meter (20,327 ft) Denali is the tallest mountain in North America and amongst the most challenging to climb in the world. The peak, located inside Alaska’s Denali National Park, is well known for it its bad weather, even during the best of months. In January, it is down right hostile for any climber, as Depre has discovered during previous attempts in 2011 and 2012. On both occasions he’s managed to acclimatize and get into position to summit, but incredibly bad weather conditions have halted progress.
For 2013, Dupre is using much the same approach as he has in the past. He’ll climb solo and without oxygen, but perhaps most impressive of all, he’ll go without a shelter of any kind. Instead, he’ll dig a series of snow caves up the mountain that he’ll use as makeshift camps and as places to store his gear. In 2011 he used this approach to get as high as 5242 meters (17,200 ft) before the weather window closed for the month. This year he’s hoping to be able to slip through a window and stand on the summit at last.
Denali has only been summited in winter by 16 other climbers, six of which perished on the descent. A Russian team of three has managed to climb the mountain in January, but no one has been able to do that solo. During that month, Denali is at its coldest and windiest, with temperatures dropping below -60ºF/-51ºC and wind speeds exceeding 160 km/h (100 mph). When combined with heavy snow and thin air, it is about the harshest environment imaginable.
Lonnie is calling this expedition Cold Love and he has shared more details on his plans with our friends over at Explorers Web. If you’d like to know more about what he has in mind, then you’ll certainly want to read that entry.
We’ll be hearing a lot more about this expedition in the weeks to come prior to its official start on January 2, 2013. Stay tuned, it’ll be another tough one.
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