I’ve never done it but from what I’ve been told, what I’ve read and reported over the years, climbing Mount McKinley is incredibly difficult no matter what time of year it is — just ask Lonnie Dupre.
The vast majority of climbers seeking to reach the 20,320-foot summit make their attempts in April, May and June, when there’s plenty of daylight to climb by. While the weather on McKinley can always pose a threat to life and limb, the mountain’s winter conditions can be more ferocious than any other time of the year.
I don’t know if you’ve been following Dupre’s adventures but I have, with amazement.
For the third January in a row Dupre has tried to become the first solo climber to conquer the mountain in January, during the dead of winter. On Thursday he reached the 17,200-foot mark. He dug a snow cave to sleep in and gather his strength, which he’d need for that final push to the top.
But rest doesn’t come easy that high up, especially when you’re cold. Dupre told his support crew in Talkeetna Sunday morning that it was 35 degrees below zero in his cave.
After a conversation with his assistant Dmitri von Kline, Dupre said the combination of bone-chilling cold and high altitude had sapped his strength beyond being able to scale the final 3,000 feet to the summit and descend back to a nearby base camp.
The two decided it would be better for Dupre to head down instead of up. It’s always better to live to fight another day.
For the third January in a row, weather has kept Dupre from his dream. It is still an amazing adventure story. It’s man versus a mountain — no, strike that, THE mountain.
For more than three weeks, Dupre has been alone on that giant, frozen land mass. For more than three weeks he’s battled vicious winds and fended off the biting cold.
Because he’s climbing by himself, Dupre is not tied off to another climber who could stop a fall should he slip on the ice and snow-covered slopes.
It takes a special person to handle that kind of challenge and adversity. Some might suggest that you have to be a little bit crazy to put yourself through that.
He may not have made it to the top this time, but I think what Dupre did is amazing, climbing that high by yourself in such an unforgiving and hostile place.
What an adventure.