Minnesota climber 1st to solo summit Mt. McKinley in January
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — 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 5:08 p.m. Central time on 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 3 hours later showing he had successfully descended to his high camp at 17,200 feet.
"That’s extremely exciting," Plummer said by phone from Texas as she was preparing to fly to Alaska to meet up with Dupre.
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.
"I’m hoping he’s resting today," Plummer said. "We won’t know until we get another SPOT signal."
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.
The messages from Dupre’s SPOT device, which many climbers carry in case they need a rescue, were the first communications Plummer received from Dupre since last Tuesday. She said his satellite phone apparently quit working sometime after that because he would have otherwise used it to call for a weather report before his final ascent.
"The weather on Denali changes from breakfast to lunch to dinner," she said.
Dupre would have had to rely on his own judgment about the weather since then, Gualtieri said. But she’s hoping he gets the phone working again.
"I just want to have that phone call to celebrate with him but we’ll have to wait. . . . Or we’ll get to celebrate at base camp," she said.
Weather permitting, Dupre’s support team expects to pick him up sometime this weekend.