After 19 days on North America's tallest mountain, arctic explorer and climber Lonnie Dupre has abandoned his third attempt to become the first person to summit Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) alone in the month of January.
Several factors forced Minnesota-native Dupre to make the decision to begin descending the Alaska mountain on Sunday.
As he did during his first attempt to successfully summit Denali in 2011, Dupre reached high camp at 17,200. He had hoped that after a 12-hour climb from the 14,200 camp, he could make the final push to the summit Sunday. However, extremely hard snow made it impossible to build a safe snow cave at 17,200, and instead of getting much-needed rest, he spent the entire night trying to keep the cave - and himself - warm. When he called his base camp at 4 Sunday morning, it was -35 degrees Fahrenheit in the snow cave.
It was virtually a life-or-death decision for Dupre.
Had he ascended Sunday toward the summit, it would have meant a 12-hour or more travel day between 17,200 feet, to the summit and back. Dupre knew he would not have had the energy or means to survive back at the 17,200 camp. It was predicted that Monday's winds would reach 50 mph and cold temperatures would translate into a windchill of -50 degrees. Combined with an unfavorable long-term forecast and dwindling food and fuel supplies, Dupre knew his chance of survival would be minimal.
"These storms on Denali can last a long time, and a climber should never be caught with less then three days of food and eight days of fuel at any point," Dupre said.
Today, Dupre is making his way down the mountain, and will continue his descent back to the 7,200 base camp as weather permits.
Although disappointed that his third consecutive try at a solo summit in January was not successful, Dupre does not consider his expedition a failure. During the expedition, he conducted research and gathered microbe samples for the Biosphere 2 project run by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. The data will give a better understanding of how climate change affects the production of living matter in extreme environments.
In conjunction with this Denali expedition, Dupre's climb will contribute footage to the documentary film "Cold Love," which is about the world's need - and people's need - for snow and ice. The premise is that snow and ice are important in the world's polar regions because they help reflect the sun's energy back into space, acting as a thermostat to keep the planet cool.