Lonnie Dupre backs off Mt. McKinley peak attempt

After hunkering down in an ever-more claustrophic and unsanitary snow cave for six days just below the summit of Alaska's Mt. McKinley, Lonnie Dupre of Grand Marais has called off his attempt to claim its first January ascent.

He's headed down. But he might try to bag the peak once more before the end of the month if his stamina returns. Being shoe-horned into that shelter at 17,200 feet, where the oxygen level is about 50 percent less than at sea level, sapped too much of his strength.

"Lonnie is going to travel down the West Buttress Ridge and Head Wall to 14,200 today," expedition manager Tom Suprenant said in an online post. "The decision to move down to 14,200 was based on the short (one day) of relatively good weather he has to travel in and his diminishing resources (physical and mental) at 17,200."

Winds of at least 100 mph had pinned Dupre below the 20,320-foot summit after a relatively uneventful approach and climb that started on Jan. 7. The winds have eased, but not enough for a safe peak attempt.

"It didn't look like (the weather break) was going to be long enough to go up and down on the summit," Suprenant told the Duluth News Tribune. "The conditions are as good as they're going to get, but marginal. When you do something like that, that's when you die."


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