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Minnesota climber to attempt rare January climb of Mount McKinley

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. -- Lonnie Dupre doesn't give up easily. The Arctic adventurer from Grand Marais will take his lifetime of cold-weather savvy back to Alaska's Mount McKinley one more time this winter. He will make his fourth attempt to become ...

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Lonnie Dupre of Grand Marais, Minn., paused to take this photo of himself on a previous attempt to climb Alaska's Mount McKinley solo in January. He was descending the West Buttress Ridge at 16,900 feet. The temperature was about 45 below zero. Dupre will make another attempt to climb the mountain in January 2015. Lonnie Dupre photo

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. -- Lonnie Dupre doesn’t give up easily.

The Arctic adventurer from Grand Marais will take his lifetime of cold-weather savvy back to Alaska’s Mount McKinley one more time this winter. He will make his fourth attempt to become the first person to climb the 20,237-foot peak solo in January.

He tried without success to reach the summit in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Each time, he was thwarted by weather conditions that prevented him from reaching the peak of North America’s highest mountain before his supplies ran out.

Dupre, 53, will fly to Talkeetna, Alaska, on Dec. 10 to make final preparations for his climb. From Dec. 15 on, he will be on standby for weather clear enough to allow him to be flown to base camp at 7,200 feet, where expeditions on McKinley typically start.

The mountain is unforgiving in winter. Only a team of two Russians has reached McKinley’s summit in January, in 1998. In total, 16 climbers from nine expeditions have reached the summit during the winter after January. Six climbers died on those expeditions.

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Dupre’s resume includes numerous Arctic expeditions, including two ski treks to the North Pole and a circumnavigation of Greenland by dogsled and kayak. He reached the summit of McKinley, also called Denali, in the summer of 2009 on an unguided climb with three others.

The appeal of McKinley, where winds can reach 100 mph near the summit, is too strong for Dupre to ignore.

“It’s pretty much a personal challenge,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this month. “It’s just using years of experience in the Arctic, taking all of that experience and knowledge, and trying to put it to use on this mountain, which is quite challenging. I find it rewarding trying to overcome these challenges.”

He will carry or tow 170 pounds of gear and food on his attempt this winter, pulling a sled and carrying the rest in a backpack. He will make some changes in his strategy this winter, using a tent rather than digging snow caves at most camps. He will follow customary mountain-climbing procedure, climbing high to ferry gear up and returning to lower elevations to sleep rather than making a dash to higher elevations.

“That will allow me to acclimate better,” he said. “You end up climbing the mountain twice, but overall it’s easier.”

Dupre also will start his climb earlier this winter than he has in past years, hoping to take advantage of good weather opportunities.

For more information on his climb, go to www.oneworldendeavors.com .

Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at cooksam48@gmail.com or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/sam.cook.5249.
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