Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition: Homecoming

I wound up staying up all night last night after I got back to basecamp at 4:30am. It was a wonderful morning spent with Masatoshi who is currently trying to summit Hunter.
Paul Rodrick, owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi accompanied by Stevie and Dmitri flew into basecamp at 2:45pm today to pick me up. It was wonderful to see them as well as knowing I wouldn’t have to spend anymore nights underneath the snow.
3 showers, 2 beers and 1 good dinner back in Talkeetna and it’s time to hit the sack… or better yet a REAL BED.
Be sure and check back frequently. As we sort through many images and video from the expedition we will be sharing them here. We’ll also keep you informed as presentations and other events unfold.
I want to thank you again for following along on my expedition. I appreciate all the well wishes and prayers that were sent my way.

Monday, January 9, 2012

#14 Little Indian Sioux North Loop: Mid-June 2011

A few days after Zane and I got back from the Snowbank Loop, I finally decided to buy a black lab puppy. I had been considering getting a pup for some time and I was lucky enough to find Agnes, the last pup of a small litter of 3. Agnes was 8 weeks old when I got her. One week later, I took her on her first Boundary Waters trip.
Zane had the same days off as I did so he decided to come too. We decided that we were going to do the P-Loop out of #14 Little Indian Sioux North. We both worked until 2:00 on our “Friday”, and with the long days up here in June, we decided to leave right from work. This gave us an extra night in the woods. We were packed and ready to go so we could leave immediately after work.
We were on the way up to #14 by 2:15, and on the water by about 3:30. This gave us plenty of time to get a good start on the loop, which we needed since this was Agnes’s first trip and we weren’t sure how much, if at all, she would slow us down. I realize this route might be a little ambitious for a puppy’s first trip, but I thought starting her young would help her get used to being in the canoe and camping.
Agnes’s first portage was no problem. Fortunately, we only had two small packs and the canoe, so the guy without the canoe just took Agnes on the leash. Getting Agnes to walk well on the leash, however, is another story, but we have been working on that.
To my surprise, she did well in the canoe too. I put a kneeling pad down in front of my seat for her to lie on, and, after loading the packs into the canoe, I set Agnes inside. She was antsy at first, but once I got into the canoe and was able to make her sit still, she got the idea and relaxed. We were on the move.
With a little bit of coaxing, Agnes did fairly well while we were traveling. She excitedly took in all the new sights and smells. We made our way down the river, portaging and paddling our way to Upper Pauness. Helping Agnes in and out of the boat was slowing our pace a little bit, but at this point we were confident that she would not slow us down too much to do the entire loop.
We made our way, via the 40 rod portage to Lower Pauness. Next, we checked out Devil’s Cascade on the way back to the Little Indian Sioux River. If you haven’t had a chance to see Devil’s Cascade it is definitely worth checking out, especially when the water is high and the river is gushing over the rocks. As you are portaging past, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the cascade.
That would be our last portage for the next five miles or so. Once we got Agnes settled in the boat, we continued paddling. As we approached the end of the river, where we were going to veer into East Loon Bay, Agnes was bored of sitting and started to get anxious. A short shore break to let her stretch and we were moving again. We passed a couple of really nice campsites and beaches in East Loon Bay on our way into Little Loon Lake. We continued to the campsite on the north side of the lake and set up our camp.
Agnes was glad to get out of the boat and run around. I was worried about her running off, but as it turns out, she stayed within eyesight the whole time. I feed Agnes while Zane got some water boiling for dinner. Shepard’s Pie with Beef from Backpacker’s Pantry, delicious. We cleaned up camp as it was starting to get dark, and I started a small fire. We relaxed for a bit, doused the fire, and then retired to the tent.
Having a puppy in the tent can be an adventure, but overall, Agnes did pretty well. I only had to let her out once during the night. She was up early, which meant I was too. I got some hot water ready for oatmeal and fed Agnes breakfast. Soon, Zane was up. We ate, tore down camp, and were on the water before we knew it.
We started the morning with a fairly long portage into Slim Lake. The farthest campsite to the north on Slim is a fantastic spot, definitely worth checking out if you are in the neighborhood. The next stretch of our route consisted of a short paddle, to a portage over a hill, to another short paddle, to another up/down portage, and so on. We cruised; the puddle jumping was good for the dog. It let her stretch and helped to keep her from getting too antsy.
We went from Slim, to Section 3 Pond, to South Lake, a longer portage to Strup Lake, east into Eugene Lake, over to Little Beartrack Lake, to Beartrack Lake, a 200 rod portage into Thumb Lake, finally a short walk over to Finger Lake, where we took a break for lunch. This stretch is one of my favorites in the Boundary Waters. It is incredibly beautiful, with gorgeous shorelines and rock faces, and is a great place for seclusion. In fact, Zane and I didn’t see another boat in this area. It is a little bit of work to get into all of these small lakes but is certainly worth the effort.
After a quick lunch, we continued on our way to Pocket Lake. Pocket is a great place to set up camp for a few nights if you get a chance. There are a couple of amazing campsites and you are usually secluded. It is an incredible place. Now it was time for us to turn south. We took Pocket Creek into Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek. This spot might be tricky with low water.
At this point in the day, we had done a lot of uphill portaging, and I was starting to get a little tired. We decided to take a quick break once we got on to Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake. We ate some GORP, took a breather, and moved on. As we paddled, Agnes fell asleep on the bottom of the boat. She must have been tired too. She would sleep the rest of the day while we traveled, just waking up long enough to do the portages.
We moved on to Green Lake, then to Rocky Lake. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we didn’t look for the pictographs, but should you be passing through see if you can find them. We moved on from Rocky to Oyster Lake, where we decided to set up camp.
The first site on Oyster was taken by only the second group of people we had seen all day. We continued along the peninsula and took the campsite on the point. This was a great site. It had plenty of room for a couple of tents, a decent spot to swim, a great spot to sit and look out on the lake or at the stars, and a really neat trail leading around the peninsula.
Exhausted, we set up camp and ate dinner. I fed Agnes and we cleaned up camp. We had about 45 minutes of daylight left, so I decided to hike around the point with Agnes. I watched the sunset, headed back to the campsite, and hit the hay.
Again, the dog and I were up early. We had the usual quick breakfast and got right on the water. I was still sore from yesterday, and we had a pretty long ways to go to finish the loop. The day started with a 310 rod portage into Hustler Lake. This portage was broken up by a small flooded spot that we needed to paddle across, which was better than doing the whole portage without a break. We cruised through Hustler and did the quick portage into Ruby Lake. The portage from Ruby to Lynx Lake was another long one.
At this point in the trip, Agnes was tired. She begrudgingly walked the portages and napped while we were paddling, but all in all she did exponentially better than I expected. From Lynx, we continued into Little Shell Lake, then to Shell Lake, another long portage back into Lower Pauness. This time, we took the short portage to Upper Pauness and then got back onto the river, which we followed back to the truck.
Overall, this was a really fun trip. I was very pleased with how Agnes did on her first camping trip, and we saw a lot of really great territory. I was, however, exhausted; it was a good tired though. This was a grueling route and Zane and I pushed ourselves a little bit, but it was a very memorable adventure.

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 19: Full Moon

Sunday the 8th was spent trying to travel from 7,800ft to 7,200ft basecamp. Though the elevation is minimal, the distance is long. Lonnie had called in at about 5:30pm yesterday evening saying he had just been caught in the worst blizzard he’d traveled in 25 years. Whiteout conditions with howling winds prevented Lonnie from being able to leave the bamboo wand he was next to and continue on. The bamboo wands were previously placed on the ascent so that Lonnie would know where the crevasses lye and could ski following them without a ladder on the descent.
He then tried to dig down, but hit solid ice only three feet below him and then walked as far as the visibility would allow, tried digging down again and ran into the same problem. Lonnie, laying flat in a snowcave no more than 18in high, tried to get a few hours of rest through the weather conditions. Luckily he had warm water from earlier, but couldn’t even tilt the bottle up to drink from it without hitting the top of his snowcave 5in above him.
At around 2:30am the weather subsided leaving clear skies and a perfectly full moon. Lonnie could not see his bamboo wands, but could see where basecamp was from the well lit skies so then decided to push on via a new route using wind navigation. The image above is from Lonnie’s Peary Centennial North Pole Expedition in 2009 and shows navigation via wind and sun.
At 4:30am Alaska time Lonnie phoned in to say he’d arrived at basecamp. We’re all thankful he’s in a safe area and will hopefully be picked up this morning via Talkeetna Air Taxi if the weather allows. We’ll let you know as soon as Lonnie is safe & sound and back in Talkeetna.
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 18: Lower Kahiltna Ski

Yesterday Lonnie made it from 11,200ft to 7,800ft. He skied down following his bamboo wands placed from the ascent. The visibility was so poor that at first he could not see where his bamboo wands were, but then eventually found two land masses along the Kahiltna Glacier that allowed him to eventually find his bamboo wands and follow them down to 7,800ft.
When Lonnie arrived at the snow cave around 5pm yesterday he ended the evening with a Mountain House lasagna meal and tea before hitting the sack.
Lonnie Dupre called in around 8:30am this morning before heading out and left the three audio updates below for everyone. These go into detail on the extremes he encountered on his descent.
Last year Lonnie punched through numerous crevasses on the lower Kahiltna Glacier and will be taking extra precaution as he travels over it today. He hopes to be at the 7,200ft basecamp by late this afternoon. We’ll keep you posted as we hear from Lonnie on his descent.
Meanwhile, we want to thank every one of you for following this expedition so closely and our sponsors for their generous support:
ENERGIZER: To light his way Dupre used an Energizer® Ultimate® Lithium LED headlamp, and powering his equipment during the extreme cold with light weight Energizer® Ultimate Lithium batteries. Without Energizer® the communications on the mountain would not have been possible.
Gunflint Tavern: We want to thank Gunflint Tavern from Lonnie’s home town Grand Marais, MN for their financial support for Polar Climb 1.
Herbalife: “During my training and acclimatization in Colorado I have been using Herbalife 24 PROLONG® to sustain my energy on those long workout days in high altitude when you need that extra lift.” -Lonnie Dupre
Rab- Rab supplied the entire Polar Climb 1 team with top of the line insulation gear from primaloft® jackets to merino wool base layers and more. We want to thank Rab for keeping Lonnie toasty at -72F temperatures.
MSR: Thank you for providing DragonFly® stove and fuel to keep Lonnie warm in his snow caves, melt snow for water and cook those delicious mountain meals.
Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation: A big thanks partnering up with Lonnie Dupre for a greater cause. The microbe samples collected on Denali will give a better understanding of how climate change will affect the production of living matter in extreme environments.
MTA: MTA provided the entire Polar Climb 1 team with mobile devices used to transmit video, audio and images from Denali this winter.
Buck’s Radio shack: Buck’s Radio Shack in Grand Marais, MN provided the satellite phone used for communication on Lonnie’s climb. Without this we would have not been able to communicate with Lonnie on the mountain.
Wintergreen Northern Wear: A big thanks to Wintergreen for keeping Lonnie warm and dry on the mountain. Lonnie was provided with custom made bibs made to Lonnie’s specifications for Denali and the Wintergreen® Expedition Shell Anorak allowed Lonnie to withstand the powerful winds of Denali.
Midwest Mountaineering: Over the years Midwest Mountaineering has provided Lonnie countless items needed for his Polar and mountaineering expeditions.
HumanEdgeTech: Thank you for providing lightweight and user-friendly software and hardware solutions for communication on Polar Climb 1.
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 17: The Descent

After 16 days on North America’s Tallest mountain, including past 7 days spent in a 4×4 snow cave from brutal weather, Lonnie Dupre on Friday abandoned his effort to become the first person to scale Denali alone in the month of January.
Lonnie spent 7 days and 6 nights in a 4×4 snow trench in up to 97mph winds, but still remained mentally strong and physically healthy with every intention on continuing upward.
Spending all of yesterday analyzing weather it seemed that there may be a possible break in the winds for a day, but then picking up after a series of low pressure systems blow over to the South. This would possibly allow Lonnie to climb to 17,200ft (high camp), but would then pick up again and not diminish in the foreseeable future. To be stuck at high camp with only 8 days worth of supplies is too big of a gamble without having at least a three days of probable weather.
Lonnie Dupre, having great appreciation for mother nature, had to make the call Friday to descend after counting rations and fuel and adding those up with the weather probability. “Due to poor weather, low visibility and extreme winds, I was forced to make the decision to descend after receiving word that there was another week of the daunting weather around the corner. You just can’t climb being blown off your feet!” -Lonnie Dupre.
We do not see this climb as a failure, but as a truly inspiring man testing the limits of dark, cold extremes to bring attention to climate change. Lonnie will be also be descending with the microbe samples collected for Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation‘s study of how climate change will affect the production of living matter in extreme environments.
Lonnie spent the day in heavy winds climbing from 14,200ft over 1,000ft to collect his stashed gear on the Headwall and then descending all the way down to 11,200ft. On his descent yesterday Lonnie managed to get around Windy Corner without being blown off his feet by using both ice axes and crampons to dig in as the gusts would hit him. He then proceeded down Squirrel Hill, an ice slope at 12,000ft, in the dark. The gusts were up to 80mph and blew Lonnie off his feet, but was able to self arrest. He then had to down-climb the remaining 3/4 of Squirrel Hill backwards daggering with both ice axes and using crampons to prevent being blown off his feet again.
Lonnie arrived at 11,200ft yesterday evening after a very long day of traveling over 4,000ft in various elevations. We’ll keep you posted on his progress on the journey back to 7,200ft as we hear from Lonnie.
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Lonnie Dupre Mount Mckinley Expedition Day 16: 97 MPH

Lonnie called in throughout last night reporting heavy winds. NOAA Aviation was reporting gusts up to 97mph throughout the night and early morning hours today.
At about 1:30am this morning Lonnie spent an entire hour in the heavy winds outside securing gear and making sure the snow cave was not being effected by the extreme winds. The winds were so strong that the snow was literally being picked up and thrown into Lonnie’s face almost suffocating him. To spend anymore amount of time in them would be almost impossible, but managed to secure all gear and see that the cave was not damaged. The upside to spending a week in a snow cave is that it is reinforced with ice inside so becomes much more stable.
Unfortunately, there is no major change to report in the weather today and possibly not for the coming days. Lonnie is still doing well on food and fuel at 14,200ft, but in need for much better weather probability to move to high camp. Today Lonnie will spend his 7th day inside his 4×4 snow cave. Meanwhile basecamp will be working hard with the pilots in the area on gathering and analyzing weather data. We so appreciate these pilots volunteering so much time into helping us with weather predictions.
Lonnie is now getting a little more weather-forced rest, but remains in high spirits and is feeling healthy. His minor frostbit fingers are doing well as he remains taking extra care of them. Lonnie wanted to say a big thanks to everyone following along for your constant support. He has been moved by the number of people that has taken such an interest in this climb.
We will keep you all posted with the weather conditions in the coming day. Until then, upward!
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 15: Fickle Weather

Unfortunately the winds did not subside as we had hoped. Lonnie woke up to to -30F and 45mph winds bringing the temperature down to a bitter -72F. Below is an audio update from Lonnie Dupre early this morning in his snow cave.
Lonnie will spend the day “cleaning house”, digging out his door and again stretching his legs outside his 4×4 snow cave.
We will again keep you posted on the conditions of the weather tomorrow. Meanwhile, remember to tune in to 91.1FM or stream live at Alaska Public Radio website at 2pm or 7pm Alaska time to listen to Lonnie being featured on Addressing Alaskans. A few days before he departed for Denali basecamp, Lonnie talked about preparing for the solo ascent of Denali in winter and his 25 year career as a polar explorer at REI in Anchorage. Enjoy!
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 14: Anticipation

The day started at 5am this morning… milling over weather and trying to decide what to do. The early morning calm winds ended, picking up right as Lonnie was dressed and ready to start the climb to 17,200ft. Unfortunately they were bad enough to prevent him from moving up.
We’re constantly trying to get a good read on the weather. It’s tough enough to predict weather here in town let alone on a mountain like Denali. Tomorrow looks better, but we won’t know for sure until early morning whether or not Lonnie will be able to travel to 17,200ft camp.
Lonnie spent the day doing getting a little exercise near his snow cave and then spent some more time on his boots. He wound up taking off buckles for unneeded weight and then tore out the boot’s tongue to make more room for his toes. He’s now in his 14,200ft snow cave getting ready to make dinner and hit the sack.
With only a couple of days from the summit, Lonnie’s enthusiasm is contagious. We’re all anticipating a good couple of days of weather and know that when that happens this climb will be a success. We appreciate all the excitement and support from all of you and will let you know what the day brings tomorrow. Upward!
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 13: Rest at 14,200

Lonnie is taking a day off to rest due to high wind and cold temperature. He’s only two travel days away from the summit, but will need ideal travel conditions for these two, very long days.
Dupre remains in good spirits and is well rested now. His toes didn’t get cold because he had made new liners for his boots from his vapor barrier originally for sleeping in. Lonnie said he shouldn’t have to use it from here on out and was worth the trade off for warm toes.
Lonnie will call around 5:30am tomorrow morning for a weather report in hopes of beginning his ascent to 17,200ft camp.
Looking for a good way to support the expedition? Lonnie Dupre spent the last ten years working on his new book, Life On Ice: 25 Years Of Polar Exploration, which includes a 32-page color insert of extraordinary Arctic images. This book covers 25 years of Dupre’s polar exploration, including the world’s first circumnavigation of Greenland and One World Expedition, a summer expedition to the North Pole that reached 68 million people worldwide. Over the past two decades, Dupre has lived and traveled with the Arctic Inuit, bringing their culture to the rest of the world. He has also worked with and gathered data for organizations such as the National Geographic Society, Greenpeace, the Explorers Club, the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the U.S. Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Wherever he goes, Dupre attracts media attention all over the world. This is your chance to see the inside story on all his expeditions.
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 12: Headwall

We (Dmitri & Stevie) had the excitement of flying over Lonnie today with captain Paul Roderick from Talkeetna Air Taxi. Temperature on the mountain ranged from -50F to -60F with windchill where Lonnie was.
After he taxied his gear to higher elevation Lonnie began his descent. Having had stuck his gloves for a brief moment between his knees, one slipped out and rolled down the Headwall. Twenty minutes later Lonnie was reunited with his lost glove. Unfortunately, he got minor frostbite on six of his fingers from exposure during that time. He said he’s had it before and knows how to maintain it to where it doesn’t get any worse.
Needless to say, Lonnie will not be traveling from 14,200ft to 17,200ft until the winds are more calm or the temperature rises. We’re hoping that happens tomorrow, but will have to wait for a more up to date weather report to know for sure if travel conditions are safe.
Frostbite and all Lonnie sounded very positive and healthy. He enjoyed chicken noodle soup and lasagna for dinner. We’ll give an update on progress tomorrow as soon as we know what’s going to happen with the weather. Upward!
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 11: Prep for High Camp

Lonnie woke up to -60F windchill weather this morning outside of his snow cave at 14,200ft. On the bright side the sun was out without a cloud in the sky.
He spent today organizing gear, food and fuel for high camp. Lonnie will spend tomorrow taxiing three quarters of his gear up the headwall to 16,000ft and then return to 14,200ft to spend the night. After that he will take the remainder of his gear and move up to high camp at 17,200ft. This will also allow him to acclimatize properly in prevention of pulmonary edema.
Lonnie is now in his snow cave enjoying Mountain House’ Tuscan Chicken Fettucini and listening to A Prairie Home Companion.
Meanwhile, join us on Twitter and Facebook for various updates!
Update from:www.lonniedupre.com

Lonnie Dupre Mount McKinley Expedition Day 10: Windy Corner

Happy New Year from Denali!
It’s 9pm Alaska time on New Year’s Eve and Lonnie is just calling in after one long day. He finished building his snow trench at around 8:15pm this evening and is now working on getting dinner started.
Lonnie spent the day working his way from 12,700ft to 14,200ft. He managed to work his way up Windy Corner which withheld it’s powerful gusts just long enough for him to work his way around it.
Once Dupre climbed above windy corner he encountered numerous, large crevasses from where the Birchron Glacier comes off of Denali.
The weather today consisted of gusts plummeting the wind chill down to -60 Fahrenheit. Lonnie said he had to keep kicking his feet for at least half the day in order to keep them warm.
Tomorrow is a day of resting, charging all electronics and organizing all supplies for high camp.
Until next time, upward!
Update from: www.lonniedupre.com