Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Denali In January: Lonnie Retreats For Now
One of the bolder and more intriguing adventures that is currently underway is Lonnie Dupre's attempt to become the first person to solo summit Denali in January. We've been following his progress over the past couple of weeks, as he has made slow, but steady progress up the tallest mountain in North America. But yesterday he was forced to retreat back down the mountain, while he reevaluates his next move.
As I mentioned on Monday, Dupre was stuck in his snow cave, waiting for a nasty storm to pass. At the time, the forecasts were calling for winds in excess of 100 mph, with blowing snow and whiteout conditions making it impossible for Lonnie to move further up the mountain. So, he was stuck in a snow cave at 17,200 feet (5242 meters) while he waiting for things to clear. The weatherman predicted that that wouldn't happen for a few days yet.
Yesterday, Lonnie elected to turn back and head for lower altitudes. His home team reports that it took him 8 hours to descend back to his cave at 14,200 feet (4328 meters), where he is currently resting and deciding what his next move is. If the weather continues to be bad, there is a real possibility that he'll scrub the climb altogether, but if it improves, he can still make a quick climb back up to his established high camp, and have a go at the summit.
Of his biggest concern is that he is running out of days in January. Today is the 26th, which means he has just five more days to complete his expedition as he hoped for. That's plenty of time, provided conditions improve, but Dupre could easily lose days waiting for the skies to clear. And when they do clear, the upper portions of Denali may not be safe climb.
Reportedly Lonnie will reassess the situation today and decide on his options. Lets hope he at least gets a crack at the summit.