MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota adventurer has succeeded in becoming the first solo climber to reach the summit of Alaska’s Mount McKinley in the month of January, his support team said Monday, citing a GPS tracking device.
Lonnie Dupre, of Grand Marais, reached the 20,320-foot summit of North America’s tallest peak at 2:08 p.m. Alaska time Sunday, said project coordinator Stevie Plummer.
Dupre sent a text message saying “All OK, Doing Well,” through a SPOT GPS messenger device that showed it was sent from the same coordinates as McKinley’s summit.
Plummer then posted on the expedition website and on Dupre’s Facebook page a map generated by the SPOT system, which she said is “extremely accurate,” showing he had made it. She also said he sent a similar SPOT message about 3½ hours later showing he had successfully descended to his high camp at 17,200 feet.
“He spent 10 minutes on the summit, took some photos, then he realized exactly how high up he was and decided to head back down. I guess reality struck at that moment,” Plummer said while en route to Alaska to meet up with Dupre.
Plummer spoke with Dupre on Monday, shortly after the climber re-established satellite phone contact for the first time in nearly a week.
This was Dupre’s fourth attempt at a solo summit in January of Mount McKinley, also known as Mount Denali. The mountain’s notoriously treacherous winter weather forced him to turn back in 2013, 2012 and 2011.
Plummer said Dupre told her he left his camp at 17,200 feet for the final climb at 4 a.m. Sunday. She said the winds started whipping up, so he completed his descent back to camp in about 3½ hours instead of the normal nine.
Plummer had expected Dupre to rest Monday, but she said he called her from 14,200 feet while making his way to his camp for the night some 3,000 feet below, she said.
The mountain is in Denali National Park. Climbers are required to register with the National Park Service, which lets park officials keep an accurate list of summit attempts and successes, said park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri. Their list shows 16 people have summited McKinley in winter, but nobody solo in January, and six deaths have resulted from those attempts.
Gualtieri said Dupre would be added after he checks in with park officials at a ranger station. She said the park doesn’t require proof, but that Dupre’s GPS device appeared to be working properly and that she was confident they’ll recognize his feat once he comes off the mountain.
Weather permitting, Dupre’s support team expects to pick him up sometime this weekend.