On Thursday, Grand Marais climber Lonnie Dupre was able to shuttle gear from his camp at 14,200 feet on Alaska’s Mount McKinley to 15,200 feet, according to his expedition website. Dupre, 51, is attempting for the third time to reach the summit of McKinley, America’s highest peak, solo in winter. He failed in two previous attempts when weather conditions proved too severe for him to complete the climb. McKinley, also called Denali, is 20,320 feet high. Dupre reached 17,200 feet in 2011, the highest camp climbers use before making an attempt on the summit. There, severe winds pinned him down for several days, forcing him to descend because his food supplies were running low.
Base camp managers for Dupre in Talkeetna, Alaska, said Dupre forged through whiteout conditions to get some of his gear to 15,200 feet on Thursday. There he cached a backpack and everything he will need to reach camp at 17,200 feet and beyond.
Between 15,200 and 17,200 feet, Dupre must climb a steep incline called “The Headwall” and then traverse a narrow spine with steep drop-offs on either side.
Base camp managers said on the website update that the odds of Dupre traveling today are 50/50, with windchill values expected to reach minus 45 degrees.
Dupre started his climb Jan. 8 after being flown to base camp at 7,200 feet. He had hoped to get started sooner, but bad weather prevented a pilot from flying him to the mountain before that. Dupre started his climb almost immediately, but storms have kept him confined to the snow caves he digs at each camp on several days.
Part of the purpose for Dupre’s climb is to make a 20-minute documentary film called “Cold Love” to call attention to climate change.
Only nine expeditions totaling 16 people have ever reached the summit of Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, in winter. Six deaths resulted from those climbs. Only one team, composed of three Russian climbers, has ever made the summit in January. Of those previous nine winter expeditions, four were solo, but none of the solos was in January.