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Dupre ready for third Mount McKinley attempt

Lonnie Dupre takes a rest during his 2012 attempt up Mount McKinley. Submitted Photo

Weather permitting, Grand Marais adventurer Lonnie Dupre could fly onto Alaska's Mount McKinley as soon as Saturday or Sunday to begin his third attempt to climb North America's highest mountain solo in the dead of winter.

"Everything is good; I'm feeling good. All my gear is in one location and everything has been tested and tried," Dupre said Wednesday from Oregon. "We're feeling fit for fight.

"We just finished up four months of training along with some mountaineering training in Colorado," he said. The training ended Dec. 21 with an ascent of the 14,278-foot-high Quandary Peak near Breckenridge, Colo.

Dupre is attempting to become the first person to reach the 20,320-foot summit of McKinley (also known as Denali, Athabaskan for "The High One") solo in January. 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.

In all, 120 climbers have died on the mountain since 1932, according to the National Park Service.

Dupre's previous attempts to reach the summit in 2011 and 2012 were thwarted by severe weather. Last winter, Dupre called it quits after being pinned down at 14,200 feet for nearly a week by hurricane-force winds. In 2011, he reached 17,200 feet, where he was pinned down by high winds and ran low on food.

"I plan on taking a little more supplies this year so I can spend up to a month and a half on the mountain if I need to," Dupre said.

Bringing more food is not the only hard-learned lesson Dupre has responded to. Rather than -- as in the past -- using snow blocks to roof the snow caves he'll sleep in, Dupre is bringing a custom-made tarp to use as a roof on this trip.

"That will save me about an hour of digging" on each snow cave, he said.

In addition, he, his team and suppliers have made all his equipment as light as possible.

"We reduced the weight about 20 pounds from last year," he said. "That is significant."

Still, Dupre, 51, will be pulling about 200 pounds of equipment.

Dupre and his team flew to Alaska on Wednesday. They are now in Talkeetna, a small town about 60 miles from McKinley's base camp at 7,200 feet. Dupre figured he would need a day to prepare his gear once they arrived in Talkeetna.

"Then we are in a holding pattern until the weather is good for us to fly to the mountain," he said.

Steve Kuchera writes for the Duluth News Tribune.