Monday, January 24, 2011

Denali In January: Ridin' The Storm Out


The weekend update from Lonnie Dupre is all about the weather. You may recall that climber and polar explorer is attempting the first solo summit of Denali in January the coldest and darkest month on already cold mountain. Last week, Dupre was making solid progress, but now he is at the hands of the very fickle weather gods, waiting out a storm that could be of epic proportions.

On Saturday, Dupre had reached 17,200 feet (5242 meters) on the mountain 20,320 foot (6194 meter) mountain, but inclement weather set in, giving him an unexpected rest day. At that point, winds were blowing at about 50-60 mph (80-96 km/h), which created whiteout conditions that forced him to stay at his current location. Climbing higher was out of the question, and the plan was to sit tight and wait for things to improve yesterday. Turns out, they didn't improve at all, and are in fact getting much worse.

The weather report for the next few days indicate that the winds are only going to increase in speed. They are expected to hit 100 mph (160 km/h) today, which is dangerous in and of itself, but the resulting whiteout conditions and dangerous temperatures, will make it impossible for Lonnie to move, up or down, for at least a couple of days. So, now he sits, and waits, very patiently in his snow cave, hoping that he'll at least get a crack at the summit.

As if that wasn't bad enough, in his latest audio update, Lonnie reports that his entire snow cave shook rather violently and unexpectedly while he was in his sleeping bag the night before. He wasn't sure exactly what happened, but he suspect that either a large crevasse opened up near by or an earthquake hit the region. It was enough to make him worry about his whole cave collapsing, burying him beneath the snow, but it passed quickly and all is well for now.

Dupre is in good spirits and is doing well physically as well. He says that his food, fuel, and other supplies are in good shape, although he is running low on battery life and will likely make fewer audio dispatches in the days ahead to conserve his sat phone's power. Other than that, for now, all he can do is hope for a weather window, which seems to be a few days off yet at least.

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