Lonnie Dupre says he knew from an early age that he was different from others when it came to being in cold places like Greenland, where he is now.
He likes that.
Growing up on a small vegetable farm near Centerville, Minnesota, just north of the Twin Cities, Dupre said he dreaded summers, not only for field work, but also for the hot temperatures. Notice, it was Minnesota, not Florida.
“I just didn’t do well. I had terrible heat rashes. I broke out in hives. I didn’t like the heat at all. … That’s always the reason I never go south of Duluth,” Dupre said with a laugh.
But he loved the winters growing up in Minnesota in the 1960s and 1970s, when Minnesota winters were colder and longer.
“When the lakes froze over and the snow covered the ground, I could skate, ski and sled. That’s what I liked the most. There was more room to explore,” said Dupre, now 60 and still fond of cold climates.
So when he left school, he left Minnesota for Alaska, where he worked as a commercial salmon fisherman in Bristol Bay.
“Growing up in Minnesota, I thought I lived up north. Then I realized there were still 2,500 miles up north to explore and there were people to meet there,” said said Dupre.
This is also why Dupré eventually settled on the north shore of Lake Superior for his permanent residence or, more precisely, his permanent base camp between expeditions.
“I love this big air conditioner called Lake Superior,” said Dupre, who lives in the woods outside of Grand Marais with her partner, Canadian Pascale Marceau, when she’s not exploring alone. .
Part of the recipe is the mental toughness that Dupré masters, of course. But he says he’s also physically well-adapted not only to withstand the cold, but to thrive in it.
“I’m rather small and strong, compact. I have a more efficient body than someone who is tall and lean,” said Dupré, who is 5-foot-6 and also has French-Canadian voyageur heritage in his blood. “And I’m lucky to have very, very good circulation.”
This is what Dupré says has allowed it to thrive in places like the summit of Mount Denali in January, the North Pole and across the Arctic in Canada.
ALREADY IN GREENLAND
Dupre will get a lot of what he loves most – cold, snow, ice and sled dogs – over the next four months. He departed Minnesota on January 16 bound for Copenhagen and landed in Greenland on January 18. The next day he flew to Qaanaaq in far northwest Greenland, his base camp for several months.
He will spend the rest of the winter and spring retracing part of his 2001 Greenland expedition, when he and Australian John Hoelscher toured the country, dog sledding and kayaking.
Dupré will not return home until the end of May.
His group on this expedition includes a filmmaker and sound technician from Germany and two Inuit culture experts from Denmark who also speak the Inuit language.
“We are going to have two teams of dogs. I’m going to get them from some of the Inuit hunters, probably 22 dogs in all,” Dupre said in a phone interview days before leaving Minnesota.
He is back in Greenland to see what has changed over the past 20 years. And he’s already worried about what he’s been told he’ll find. Climate change is rapidly changing the lives of the polar Inuit he has come to love and respect during his travels in the North.
“Climate change is not something they expect to happen in the future. It is already happening to them, changing their lives,” Dupre said.
This includes fewer months of safe sea ice cover, which has greatly reduced the time people can travel between villages.
“The terrain on earth is too mountainous to travel. They therefore depend on the pack ice to get from one village to another. … They’ve already gone from eight or nine months of safe ice to maybe four or five months. It’s a huge change for their culture, for the people,” Dupre said.
Dupre’s expedition will set up base camp at Qaanaaq and travel by dog sled to three other small Inuit villages, including Siorapaluk, the northernmost permanent village on the planet.
Its aim is to produce a documentary film, tentatively called ‘Pulling for the Planet’ – worthy of Netflix, PBS, BBC or other media that will allow the world to see how Inuit culture is changing. . But, it will not focus on the obvious melting of sea ice and glacial ice. Instead, he focuses on the people who depend on the ice to survive, many of the same people he encountered on his journey 20 years ago.
“I don’t want it to be just another depressing film about climate change. … I want it to be a story about people and how their lives are affected,” Dupre said.
It’s this human touch that he hopes will impact people who see the film and inspire them to take action to solve the problem. And he said the sense of real adventure, traveling by dog sled in winter in a place as dramatic and icy as northwest Greenland, will help market the film.
“There’s a real demand right now for adventure films and I think it will fit in nicely with that,” Dupre said.
During his many trips through the Arctic, Dupre said the Inuit inspired him on how to live a simple and sustainable life. It’s part of his life mission, purpose, and “just live” philosophy when he’s at home in Minnesota. Dupre, a carpenter by trade who builds small log cabins when he is at home in Cook County, lives in a simple cabin and drives a simple car.
German filmmaker Josefin Kuschela will camera and produce the documentary when she returns home. Although she has made films in Alaska and other cold climate regions, she has never been to a place as cold or dark as Greenland in the winter.
“I don’t know what to expect. I have never experienced the polar night before. It’s going to be dark all the time when we first get there,” Kuschela said in a Zoom interview. But, like Dupré, she likes the cold.
“I really like being in cold climates. I feel more energy. I don’t like the heat,” she says.
She hopes the film can bring Greenland to the rest of the world.
“I think a film can bring people closer to a part of the world they would never have visited otherwise. It can lead to an understanding and compassion for other cultures and distant regions, a wonder at other ways of life, and a willingness to protect those regions that are otherwise out of sight,” he said. she noted. “It could give people new perspectives on their own lives. What is really important in life. What can we be happy about that we never think about?
Kuschela said she didn’t know how long the finished film would be, but, with four months to shoot and so many colorful characters to meet along the dog sledding routes, she said it would take a year before that anyone sees the final product. She said the first step would be to submit the documentary to film festivals and then hope people like it.
“We could have something completed by mid-2023,” she said.
YEARS OF PLANNING
Dupre has been planning the Greenland revisit for years, last summer sending over 4,000 pounds of gear as a supply cache for his expedition. The supplies arrived in Qaanaaq by cargo ship months ago.
“About 2,000 pounds of dog food,” Dupre noted. “But it’s also sleds, gear and supplies for us.”
Arctic expeditions are more expensive and more elaborate than climbing a mountain with one or two people, he noted.
“It’s a lot of air travel that is very expensive, especially as you go further and further north and enter smaller and smaller villages,” he noted.
Durpe said he underwrote some of the cost of the expedition himself, but had help from several sponsors, including the Rolex Foundation, and his usual gear suppliers such as Granite Gear based at Two Harbors, Ely-based Wintergreen clothing, Primaloft insulation, Midwest Mountaineering and Hilleberg tents. .
When Dupre visited Inuit villages 20 years ago, there were no telephones, no airport, no internet and only a few black and white televisions.
“Now they’re all on Facebook,” Dupre said, noting that the technology has found even the most northern and distant people from Earth. “They have an airport now. … Their lives are changing. Their culture is changing. … In a place where everything depends on ice, they lose their ice. This is the story we hope to tell.
SECOND SHIPPING STAGE
At the end of Dupré’s trip to Greenland, he will send another expedition. Two Canadians — Dupré’s partner Pascale Marceau and Scott Cooks — will join American filmmaker Jayme Dittmar as they ski along Canada’s Ellesmere Island.
They’ll go with Dupre’s dog sledding teams to the frozen Baffin Bay maritime border between Greenland and Canada, where they’ll ski west, back on the trail of Inuit shaman Qitdlarsuaq, who emigrated with his people from Baffin Island to Greenland in the 1860s.
Lonnie Dupré in cold places
- The first 3,000-mile west-to-east winter crossing of Canada’s famous Northwest Passage by dog sled.
- The first circumnavigation of Greenland, a 6,500-mile, completely unmotorized journey by kayak and dog team.
- He pulled sleds, while on skis, from Canada to the North Pole, twice.
- The first solo ascent of Mount Denali in Alaska (20,340 feet) in January.
- Alpine climb of the Kyajo Ri (20,295 feet) in Nepal.
- First ascent of Jeannette Peak (10,135 feet) in British Columbia.
- Solo ascent of Mount Quincy Adams (13,615 feet) in Alaska.
- First winter ascent of Mount Wood (15,912 feet) in the Yukon.