Grand Marais Man Summits Denali

Lonnie Dupre Becomes First Man to Summit Mt. McKinley Solo in January

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Expeditions in the North Pole, and circumnavigating Greenland, are just some of the things on Lonnie Dupre’s resume.

But 5 years ago, he set out on another mission, this time, to be the first to summit Mt. McKinley alone in January.

After 4 attempts in as many years, at 20,237 feet, he finally accomplished what no man has done before.

“It’s something that’s really difficult to prepare for,” Dupre said. “It just takes time.”

Reaching the summit of Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America, is no easy task.

“It wasn’t easy and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to accomplish it this year,” Dupre admitted. “And if I hadn’t accomplished it this year, I would have gave it up and did something else.”

Then factor in climbing alone in January, the coldest, darkest month of the year.

“It can be 60 below, that’s okay. It can be somewhat dark, that’s fine. But it has to be fairly calm,” Dupre explained.

When asked what it was like to be alone for such a long period of time, Dupre joked, “Well, I get plenty sick of myself after a few days.”

Three years in a row, Dupre came close. But each time, with the peak in sight, he was forced to turn around.

“The decision to turn around, on those past 3 attempts, was strictly based on weather,” he told FOX 21. “You just got to make those decisions because if you try to plow ahead, you’re going to die up there.”

But this year, he was given a weather window that allowed him to reach the top.

“That’s probably one of the most difficult things about Denali, is trying to predict this window,” conceded Dupre.

Four months before the expedition kicked off, Lonnie began training.

“I basically do what I’m going to be doing on the mountain,” said Dupre. “So if I’m dragging a sled, it means I’m going to be dragging something like a tire or a sled back home here.”

He vacuum–packed 34 days’ worth of food, that could be stretched over 45 days.

“Most of the food I take is stuff that I make myself,” said Dupre.

And shipped off to Alaska for attempt number 4.

“A lot of times when the expedition starts, it’s a relief because then I can quit training,” Dupre disclosed.

And then the hard part begins, or one would think.

“Some people would think it would be the hard part, but it’s actually a relief to just get on the trail, shed all social parameters and everything that comes with everyday life,” Dupre admitted. “The only thing you have to worry about is the very basics of existence, staying alive, traveling.”

Lonnie started on skis, pulling 194 pounds in a sled on a gradual incline up a glacier until reaching 11,000 feet, where he stowed his skis and climbed to 14,000 feet. Then, parted ways with the sled, and put everything in his backpack.

“When I leave 14,000 feet, I’m geared up and ready for a summit attempt,” Dupre expressed.

When severe weather hit, confining Dupre to his tent for five-and-a-half days.

“I had to stay in my sleeping bag at 19 hours a crack, just to conserve energy,” Dupre said.

“Every 4 hours I’d have to get out of my tent and shovel the snow off my tent to keep it from collapsing,” Dupre added. “Snow was a bit wet, so I always felt a little hypothermic. So you’ve got to come up with things to do to keep yourself busy. Melt snow for drinking water, you need to get the frost out of your sleeping bags, repairing holes in your clothing, all those little things that you can do to stay busy to keep yourself motivated and working towards the next day.”

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