As of today, Lonnie Dupre has 25 days remaining to attain his goal. If he succeeds, he would be the first solo climber to reach Denali’s summit in January. So far, only Russians Artur Testov and Vladimir Ananich have been there then, having topped out on January 16, 1998.
Last I heard, Lonnie Dupre just got the approval from his pilot in Talkeetna to fly to and land on the Kahiltna Glacier, where he will start his ascent up the West Buttress.
I think missions like this are always ripe for disaster. When a climber sets a goal with a schedule like his there are various ways to be disappointed: the date might be missed, the summit might not be reached, and injury or fatality may occur.
A goal like this can motivate the climber to push him or herself too far or too hard to be successful. Goals and objectives are good. They are key to motivating and often drive us toward accomplishment and self-improvement. But setting the right goals and expectations might moderate some of the self-imposed challenges climbers face.
A good alternative might be to set the simpler goal of reaching Denali’s summit in winter and see how the weather and circumstances come. If the climber becomes the first to reach the top in January, great, but if not at least the climb was epic!
I don’t mean to disparage Dupre’s objectives. They are fantastic and I am partially envious! Like any mountaineer with a goal he or she has declared publicly, he is in a precarious position. Pressure from ego, satisfying sponsors, and the risk of failure can factor negatively climbing wisely sometimes. Anyone that has set out for a bona fide first ascent — like Edmund Hillary on Everest or Hudson Stuck on Mount McKinley — probably realizes that the glory of success is great but that accomplishing the goal to get it was daunting and might not have happened.
Let’s hope Dupre can compartmentalized and separate the pressures of his mission from his logical analysis. A key to being a great alpinist, it seems to me, is luck, nerve, perseverance and analytical skill. Such a balancing act of such factors could result in a Zen-like moment. Let’s also hope the weather cooperates!
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