Dupre and Marceau call it quits
Feb 09, 2018 06:13AM ● Published by Editor
Photo: Marceau, Dupre, and pilot John in Burwash Landing, YT. Shot by Michael Schmidt, Co-chair of Expedition Program for Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
By Brian Larsen of the Cook County News Herald - February 9, 2019
After enduring 13 days of tough trekking through glacial fields at high altitude, and less than 4,000 feet from the peak of Mount Steele, Lonnie Dupre and Pascale Marceau called it quits and headed back down to their base camp, vowing to return at another time to make a second attempt to summit the mountain.
The duo ended their quest to summit the 16,644-foot peak on January 30.
Summiting Mount Steele wasn’t in the couple’s initial plans. But once they flew into base camp they realized they couldn’t use the Washburn route to reach the peak of Mount Lucania, and they came up with another nearby mountain to climb.
Located in the St. Elias Mountain Range in Kluane’s National Park and Reserve in Canada, the couple began their quest on January 18 flying separately into base camp located at 9,800 feet. Unfortunately, they had to land far from their preferred drop off spot, which threw a wrench into their plans and left them further away on an already physically demanding trek.
It took two days to get situated before they moved all of their gear to an advanced base camp located at 10,067 feet, fighting the effects of pesky altitude headaches as their bodies adjusted to working hard with less oxygen.
By January 23 Dupre and Pascale were better acclimated and ready to tackle the ice fields in the Yukon. According to their blog, they managed to bring up the cache (gear and food) to the top of the Southeast Ridge of Mount Steele at 12,200 feet, about 1,800 to 2,000 feet from the base camp. They described it as “a stellar climb with crampons was in the books, despite a crevasse fall for Pascale near the top, to just the tip of her thigh. She managed to head back downslope before Lonnie discovered another enormous crevasse which the two belayed across successfully.”
The next day Lonnie and Pascale moved three loads of food, and two-thirds of their gear to a new camp after being held back by ice fog. A windstorm carrying gusts between 30 to 50 mph kept them in their shelter for the next two days. During that time the wind chill dropped to -58F/-50C.
Following a break in the weather, the duo followed an ice-sculpted ridge and managed to ferry a cache of supplies while deciding to summit Mount Steele. If time and supplies were available, they also decided they would travel to Mount Lucania via the long ridge that connected the two.
On January 26 the couple was in high spirits with sunny skies and winds not blowing too hard, up to 20 miles per hour. They settled at 12,200 feet, and carried their supplies ahead and geared up for a second big week of climbing. Mostly they used the day to rest and recuperate.
January 29 from their blog:
“With a windstorm rendering the duo immobile for the last 30 hours, Pascale and Lonnie are freezing and feeling a bit weary. At their current camp, which is located at 12,000 feet, their tent was holding up but with the winds pushing 40 miles per hour, and temps that feel like -43F, they couldn’t move.
By the next day, it became impossible to stay warm at night after their sleeping system progressively iced up, which left them dangerously vulnerable to freezing. After a big meal, building a snow fort creation around their tent under clear skies and tapped down winds, the biting cold still lingered in their tent and Lonnie and Pascale couldn’t get warm. It was time to go.