Lonnie Dupre Becomes First Ever January Denali Soloist

(Photo credit: John Walter Whittier)
(Photo credit: John Walter Whittier)

History has been made on North America’s highest peak. On Sunday, Lonnie Dupre became the first solo climber to summit Denali in the month of January.

Download Audio

The news of Lonnie Dupre’s summit came early on Sunday afternoon. His support team received a message from Dupre’s GPS locator that he had made it to the top of North America’s highest peak.

This attempt to be the first successful January soloist on Denali is Dupre’s fourth. His previous tries were thwarted by bad weather high on the mountain. Last Thursday, Lonnie Dupre shared via satellite phone his thoughts on being held back by poor conditions.

“There’s nothing worse than having to stay put, especially when you have eighteen hours of darkness every evening. It makes for very long nights. And, of course, just always having the weather pull the rug out from under you when you were psyched up to go somewhere or do some climbing,” Dupre said.

The weather did eventually break, and allowed Lonnie Dupre to make a summit attempt on Sunday morning. According to his GPS tracker, he reached the summit just after 2:00 pm.

(Photo credit: John Walter Whittier)
(Photo credit: John Walter Whittier)

After receiving the GPS notification, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick says he took a plane up in an attempt to spot Lonnie Dupre on the descent, which can be just as dangerous as the climb in the winter.

“We were concerned, because the winds were picking up, up high,” Roderick said. “It was gusting to thirty knots, and it didn’t look like a place you wanted to be.”

“From the report I just got, when he summited it wasn’t at windy, but he could feel it picking up, and he just raced off the top.”

Paul Roderick says he began looking in the area of the summit, fearing that Lonnie Dupre had been pinned down by the increasing wind. Then, with daylight fading, he started to look lower on Denali.

“We made it down lower, to about [17,000 feet], and we were getting knocked around pretty good…but luckily he had his headlamp,” Roderick said. “As I was looking at the [17,200 foot] camp, just maybe ten minutes out, we could see this light beaming up at us…It was a good thing to see.”

With weather potentially building to the south, Lonnie Dupre is not wasting any time in his descent.  Paul Roderick says Dupre left his camp at 17,200 feet before 4:00 a.m. Monday and could reach base camp at 7,200 feet by Tuesday afternoon, where he will await his flight back to Talkeetna.