While most of the mountaineering community will be turning its attention to K2 after the new year to see how the two teams making their attempt at the first winter ascent of that mountain fare, some of us will also be keeping a close eye on Lonnie Dupre. The experienced polar explorer and mountaineer will return to Mt. Hunter in Alaska this year in an attempt to become the first to make a solo summit of that peak in the winter.
This isn’t Dupre’s first go around with Mt. Hunter. He made an attempt on the same mountain in January of 2017, only to be turned back by extremely poor weather and heavy snow. But the man who spent the better part of five winters attempting –– and eventually completing –– a solo winter ascent of Denali doesn’t give up easy and Hunter has remained a top objective on his hit list.
Dupre is calling his expedition Cold Hunter One as the mountain is well known for its extreme temperatures. In fact, Mt. Hunter is viewed as one of the toughest 14,000-foot (4267 meter) peaks in all of North America, in no small part because of its location and frequently poor weather conditions. At 14,573 feet (4441 meters) it is a solid challenge at any time of the year, but in the dead of winter it turns into an incredibly difficult slog even for an experienced climber like Dupre.
The plan is to launch the expedition on January 7, with Dupre being dropped off by plane and then skiing to the mountain. From there, he’ll establish Base Camp at 8000 feet (2438 meters) and begin shuttling gear up to his high camp at 11,200 feet (3413 meters). Once everything is in place and he feels sufficiently acclimatized, he’ll have a go at the summit, weather permitting of course. All told, he expects the entire expedition to last roughly 19 days.
If you followed Lonnie’s winter Denali attempts over the years you probably know that he didn’t use a tent on the mountain but instead dug snow caves to serve as his shelter. With fewer camps to build and stock, it’s unclear if he’s using the same strategy here. Either way, there should be plenty of snow on the mountain, with sub-zero temperatures for much of the climb. The days are also incredibly short in Alaska during January, so much of the expedition will be conducted in the dark too.
You can find out more about the Cold Hunter One expedition and follow Lonnie’s progress on his website. He leaves for Alaska in 18 days.