Minnesota climber phones home on way down Mount McKinley

AP News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2015 6:39 PM
Minnesota climber phones home on way down Mount McKinley

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota climber making his way down from the summit of Mount McKinley in Alaska said Tuesday that he's looking forward to a hot shower, then a hot bath, then a salad and fruit — and a celebratory wine or beer.

Lonnie Dupre, of Grand Marais, told The Associated Press by satellite phone that he was drinking hot cocoa at 11,000 feet and waiting for the weather to clear before heading down to his next camp at around 7,500 feet. Weather permitting, he said, he expected to reach the base around noon Alaska Standard Time on Wednesday and get picked up by a bush pilot.

"It's going to feel good to be warm again," he said.

Dupre claimed credit Sunday for becoming the first solo climber to reach the 20,320-foot summit during January, the coldest and darkest month on North America's highest mountain, also known as Denali, where winter winds frequently top 100 mph and temperatures often fall below minus 60. He used a GPS communicator to transmit his coordinates and let his crew know he made it. Denali National Park officials who keep the records say they expect to add him once he checks in at the ranger station.

The 53-year-old said it was extremely cold at the summit, where he turned around three times to take it all in.

"The whole skyline opened up before me and I could see the entire length of the Alaskan range. ... I could see the shadow of Denali that was nicely painted to the north of me. I was thinking I was standing at the top of the shadow. Was it ever nice! But I had to get myself back down, and I got off after 10 minutes. Because the most dangerous part of the climb is the descent," he said.

This was Dupre's fourth attempt in as many winters. Extreme weather forced him to turn back each time before, but he said this climb was actually the toughest, because of high winds and deep snow.

"I was lucky. I had one short window one day to make it to the summit," he said. "We just happened to pick the right day, and Denali allowed me to climb it."