Grand Marais climber Lonnie Dupre reached 17,200 feet on Alaska’s Mt. McKinley (also called Denali) about 8:30 p.m. (Alaska time) Friday night after a long and difficult day, according to a report on his website.
Getting from 14,200 feet to 17,200 feet requires climbing “The Headwall,” a steep section, using fixed ropes left in place from other climbs, then traversing the knife-edge West Buttress Ridge. Mt. McKinley is 20,320 feet high, and 17,200 is the final camp before climbers typically make a one-day dash to the summit and back to 17,200.
Dupre, 51, left the camp at 14,200 feet shortly after 8:30 a.m. Friday, according to the update on his website, made by his base camp manager in Talkeetna, Alaska. Dupre didn’t reach 17,200 feet until 12 hours later at approximately 8:30 p.m.
“Upon reaching Headwall, Lonnie spent numerous hours breaking the frozen fixed lines out of the ice, putting him at the top of the headwall/West Buttress Ridge at 4 p.m. He traveled the entire West Buttress in the dark, all while reporting -35F temperature with 40 mph wind. The support team did not hear from Lonnie until almost 11 p.m., after the construction of his snow cave had been finished. Lonnie called while beginning to warm the snow cave for a well-deserved good nights rest,” the report said.
He plans to rest today and acclimate to the higher altitude. Then, if weather conditions allow, he will try to reach the summit.
“We are carefully monitoring weather for Sunday, but it is too early to tell,” his base camp manager wrote in the report.
Dupre is attempting to become the first climber to reach the summit of McKinley solo in winter. He was denied the summit after reaching 17,200 feet in 2011 when poor weather and dwindling food supplies forced him to retreat. Bad weather also prevented him from succeeding last year.