Grand Marais Man Summits Denali: Part 2

Lonnie Dupre Becomes First to Reach Peak of Mt. McKinley Solo in January

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“If the weather’s not good on a mountain, it’s pretty straightforward,” said Dupre. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, could I go or not,’ it’s straightforward like, ‘Can’t go.’”

But the weather gave way, allowing Dupre to climb to 17,000 feet, where he set up his last camp before the summit.

“I never knew at any particular time during the day on my way up the summit that I would make it,” Dupre admitted. “And I never really knew I would make it until actually I crested over Denali’s ridge, Summit Ridge. And I looked to my left and I could see in the distance, the summit, and I, at that point, realized I would make it. But it wasn’t until 15 minutes prior to getting to the summit that I realized I would actually make it.”

When asked what his emotions were like when he reached the top, Dupre didn’t hold back.

“I balled like a baby when I got to the top because it’s been four years of hard work, dragging gear up to the top of that mountain. And I did break down a little bit when I got to the summit because it was, one, it was so beautiful, and two, it was a relief. And I just felt humbled to be alive.

But the moment could only be enjoyed for so long, as most mountaineering fatalities, happen on the descent.

“You want to skedaddle and get out of there because the weather can change on you,” Dupre explained. “If you get caught above 17 [thousand feet] in bad weather, you won’t survive the evening.”

Stef Manisero asked Dupre if there was ever a time, from start to finish, that he thought he wouldn’t make it.

“Yeah, every day,” Dupre expressed. “Every day you’re very focused on being safe, because you’re making life and death decisions a dozen times a day, every day, for a month. So you really need to be right in the now, where you’re at, becoming one with the environment, in tune with the environment, and in tune with your own body and what it’s telling you.”

What Dupre could once only dream about became a 29 day reality that rewrote history forever.

“Every day’s just a work day,” explained Dupre. “I get up, I be safe, I do what my body’s telling me. Stay hydrated, stay fed, take care of yourself, you know. If you need to sleep in an extra hour or half hour, or whatever the case may be because you’re exhausted, do it.”

While it takes months to recover both mentally and physically, trying to regain weight lost on the hike and battling depression, Dupre wouldn’t change a thing about his journey.

He exclaimed, “The rewards of seeing the Alaska range in January with the lighting is amazing.”

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