Standing 20,320 feet in height, Alaska‘s Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America. Due to its extreme weather conditions throughout most of the year, it is typically only climbed in June and July, when the short Alaskan summer allows for the best access to the summit. But in January, mountaineer and polar explorer Lonnie Dupre will attempt the unthinkable – a solo summit in the dead of winter.
The 49 year old Dupre is no stranger to cold climes. He has spent much of his adult life exploring the polar regions of our planet on foot or by kayak and dogsled. During his illustrious career Dupre has visited remote regions of Siberia, completed a Northwest Passage crossing by dogsled, circumnavigated Greenland, and visited the North Pole.
But a solo summit of Denali in January will be a completely different kind of challenge. In fact, only 16 people have ever reached the summit in winter at all, and it has only been successfully climbed in January on one other occasion when a team of three Russian mountaineers topped out back in 1998. Additionally, there have been six deaths on Denali as a result of attempted climbs during the winter.
As you would expect, January is the coldest month of the year on the mountain, but adding to the challenge is the perpetual darkness that shrouds the region during the long Alaskan winters. To avoid the cold, dangerous winds, Dupre plans to take shelter in ice caves that he’ll dig himself and won’t even carry a tent along on the climb, something that the Russian team did on their successful climb as well. He’ll also have to deal with 24 hours of darkness during his climb, which adds to the psychological challenges as well.
If everything goes as planned, Dupre should depart from his home in Minnesota today for Talkeetna, Alaska, where he’ll put the finishing touches on the preparation for his expedition. He hopes to reach the summit of Denali before January 31st.
[Photo credit: Bob Webster via WikiMedia]