Winter Climbs 2020: Lonnie Dupre in Base Camp on Mt. Hunter

The 2020 winter climbing season may be over on the 8000-meter peaks, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t handful of other expeditions still taking place that are worth following. For example, polar explorer and climber Lonnie Dupre is currently on Mt. Hunter in Alaska, where he hopes to make a winter summit of the mountain before the official end of the season in  a few weeks time.

This is Dupre’s second go at the 14,573-foot (4442-meter) Mt. Hunter in winter. The peak, which is located inside Denali National Park, is considered one of the coldest and most challenging mountains in Alaska. Despite the fact that it is nearly 5000 feet (1524 meters) lower than Denali, it is a much more difficult and technical climb. It also sees far less traffic, and almost none during the winter.

This of course, makes it all the more enticing to Dupre, who enjoys a good winter challenge in Alaska. A few years back he made a solo winter summit of Denali in January, becoming the first person to achieve that feat.

Dupre and his team were dropped off in Base Camp back on February 28 and went up to tackle Mt. Hunter’s icefall the very next day. After spotting what he thought was a safe route through, he started up to what he hoped would be his Advanced Base Camp, only to discover the path was blocked. House-sized chunks of ice choked the route, forcing him to retreat back to BC to regroup.

For the next few days, poor weather kept the team in BC as they waiting for conditions to improve. Heavy snow dropped on the mountain and for the most part all they could do was sit and wait out the storm. On March 2, Dupre and company moved to the Southwest Ridge of Hunter because they couldn’t find a safe route through the Icefall. They’re hoping the change of scenery will give them a better shot at the summit.

Changing locations to the new route was draining due to moving heavy gear through deep snow, but since setting up their new campsite, the team has begun shuttling gear higher up the mountain in hopes of making a summit push when a proper weather window arrives.

Because Hunter isn’t especially tall, at least not in mountaineer terms, acclimatization doesn’t take very long nor is the thin air dangerous. Instead, the team will be dealing with extremely cold temperatures, high winds, and potentially heavy snows. On the other hand, if a proper weather window comes, that means they could make a summit push in short order, knocking off a challenging peak in matter of just a few days.

We’ll keep an eye on Lonnie’s progress and report more as the expedition unfolds.

Kraig Becker