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Dupre makes it back to base camp on descent off Mount McKinley

Lonnie Dupre

Grand Marais adventurer Lonnie Dupre reached base camp at 7,200 feet on Mount McKinley early Monday after a difficult three-day descent from 14,200 feet.

Talkeetna Air Taxi was preparing to try to reach the mountain about 3 p.m. Minnesota time -- 11 a.m. Alaska time.

"It is looking good. The sun is out and there are clear skies," Stevie Plummer, a member of Dupre's support team in Talkeetna, Alaska, said via phone from the air service. "It's always hard to tell, though, until you get up there."

The small town of Talkeetna is about 60 miles from McKinley's base camp.

Dupre decided Friday to abandon his second attempt to become the first person to reach Mount McKinley's 20,320-foot summit -- the highest point in North America -- solo in January after being pinned down by strong winds for nearly a week.

Dupre descended to 11,200 feet Friday, using two ice axes and crampons to prevent himself from being blown away as he rounded the aptly named Windy Corner at 13,200 feet. While descending an icy slope at 12,000 feet, however, wind gusts that Dupre estimated to be up to 80 mph blew him off his feet. He was able to stop his fall with his ice axes. He finished descending the hill by going backward using both ice axes and his crampons to prevent being blown off his feet again.

High winds and bad visibility continued to hinder Dupre on Saturday, Sunday and early Monday. On Saturday, he had difficulties finding the bamboo wands he had placed on the ascent to mark the route. On Sunday, he left 7,800-foot camp for the five-mile trip to 7,200-foot base camp but was caught in a blizzard in the afternoon. Whiteout conditions prevented him from departing one bamboo wand since he couldn't see the next.

"He then tried to dig down but hit solid ice only 3 feet below him and then walked as far as the visibility would allow, tried digging down again and ran into the same problem," his website said. "Lonnie, laying flat in a snowcave no more than 18 inches high, tried to get a few hours of rest through the weather conditions."

About 2:30 a.m. Monday, the weather subsided and Dupre continued to base camp, arriving about 4:30 a.m. Alaska time. An air taxi will take him off the mountain as soon as the weather allows.

Dupre, 50, tried climbing McKinley last January, but bad weather stopped him at 17,200 feet.

A team of two Russians reached the summit in January 1998. In total, only 16 climbers from nine expeditions have reached the summit during the winter. Six climbers died on those expeditions.