American explorer and 2004 Laureate Lonnie Dupre will undertake one of the biggest challenges of his life at the end of December 2010 when he travels to Alaska to make the first solo winter ascent of Denali – also known as Mount McKinley – the highest mountain in North America.

Dupre, who has undertaken several major expeditions to raise awareness of the damage caused by climate change to the Arctic ice cap, wants his Denali expedition – which should be completed by the end of January – to draw attention to the threat to Alaska’s glaciers.

Denali is 20,320 feet (6,193 metres) high, but, according to Dupre, the mountain’s proximity to the Arctic “makes it feel like a 23,000-foot [7,010-metre] peak. This, along with its unpredictable weather and vast crevasse fields, makes it a challenging climb in summer even by Himalayan standards. But in the winter it’s a whole different set of conditions. Winds often exceed 100 miles [160 kilometres] per hour, temperatures plummet below -50F [-45C], and there’s an average of only six hours of sunlight.

“Only nine expeditions totalling 16 people have ever reached the summit of Denali in winter,” Dupre says. “Six deaths resulted from those climbs. Only one team – comprised of three Russian climbers – has ever made the summit in January, the dead of winter. Of those nine original expeditions, four were solo, but none of the solos was in January, the darkest and coldest time.”

A base camp will be established at Talkeetna, a small town close to Denali, with veteran athlete and explorer Tom Surprenant as expedition manager. Dupre, who has engaged in intensive training in recent months, will send email updates every day from the trail.

To follow the expedition in January 2011, visit http://www.lonniedupre.com

Learn more about Lonnie Dupre

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