The well-known explorer and 2004 Rolex Laureate Lonnie Dupre in a career spanning more than 25 years has undertaken numerous remarkable expeditions to the arctic. Meticulously documenting the fragile eco-system of breathtaking beauty, Dupre hopes his work would inspire others to educate and advocate for the environment and indigenous cultures in the area. Travelling 5,000 miles across the icy terrains of the arctic and polar by kayak, ski and dog teams, Dupre has tried to go beyond the myths and reality of global warming to make a difference.
Born in a Minnesota farm in 1961, Dupre spent hours as a young boy discovering the beauty of the nearby creeks and woodland. The love for exploration was perhaps a legacy passed down time to Dupre given that Jacques Cartier, the French explorer and founder of Quebec is related from his mother’s side. As Dupre found a great appreciation for the wintery cold and ice fishing in Minnesota, he often wondered how far out the “north” was and tried gathering as much information through maps and reading books on places and people in cold regions. After high school he decided to take a three week trip to Alaska in his pick up truck but stayed on for the next three years making a living from different vocations and travelling to remote place. Once Dupre returned to Minnesota, he knew that what started out as an adventure to a new world had now become a lifelong passion
Dupre’s long list of expeditions include the world’s first circumnavigation of Greenland with Australian John Hoelscher is quite interesting given that both of them during a period of three visits covered 6,517 miles either or dog sledge or kayak. Another historic journey was The One World Expedition which aimed to highlight the issue of global warming by crossing the North Pole in summer paddling in canoe sleds over sea ice. Accompanied by fellow explorer and friend Eric Larsen and further supported by Greenpeace, this was one of Dupre’s ambitious expedition.However, the unseasonal condition prevented the team from completing the journey but garnered the much need global attention to the disastrous effects on the “Arctic Ocean environment and its unique, ice-adapted wildlife.”
In the end of December 2010, Dupre began his first solo winter ascent of 20, 320 feet of Mount McKinley, also known as Denali. One of North America’s highest mountains, the expedition is Dupre’s biggest challenge given the difficult weather conditions and enormous gauges. Dupre had already climbed Mount McKinley over the summers in just as little as 13 days. However, the climb to the summit is even more treacherous during the winters as temperatures plummet below -50F [-45C] with icy winds exceeding 100 miles (160 kilometres) per hour. Dupre has spent months of meticulously planning and preparations for this particular expedition and also set up a base camp close to Denali in the small town of Talkeetna. It is from here that expedition manager Tom Surprenant, a veteran athlete and explorer keeps track of the progress as Dupre sends out updates from the trail on a daily basis.
Over the years, there have been just nine expedition and 16 people in all to undertake this perilous trek to the summit of Denali during the winter. It has also claimed the lives of six explorers. Four of these expeditions were solo and only one three member Russian team has scaled the summit in the “darkest and coldest” month of January. These expeditions have resulted in six deaths so far.
However, Dupre in undeterred by the statistic instead encouraged by his larger mission to “draw attention to the threat to Alaska’s glaciers.” The expedition expected to end in January is presently delayed by a few days Dupre is forced to descend to safety at his base camp due to hazardous weather. Moreover, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake may have also altered the landscape of Mount. McKinley whereby making it important for Dupre to regroup before continuing his journey.
Every expedition Dupre undertakes has its own unique experience and story to tell. But most of all these expeditions are a testament of the possibilities to make a difference by simply having the passion, commitment and courage to dream. It is hard not to be inspired by the accomplishments and captivated by the sheer beauty of nature. But As Dupre makes his historic climb to the summit of Denali, his earnest effort is to propel the global community to see the urgency in addressing climate change and preserving the future and indigenous cultures in places such as the Arctic.
Image ©Rolex Awards/Marc Latzel
Crossing the Arctic Ocean in summer, Dupre aimed to increase public awareness of global warming.
By arrangement with Global Times Magazine