Lonnie Dupre Encounter

Encounters often happen when you least expect them. You might meet someone unexpectedly, witness a scene in nature that leaves you stunned, read a book that turns your life around or have a raven appear to guide you down a mountain. Encounters can touch you in many different ways and have the potential, in the blink of an eye, to fundamentally change the course of your life forever. I recently discussed this with explorer Lonnie Dupre. I asked Lonnie to share a significant encounter in his long and distinguished career in the arctic and the mountains. Lonnie shared the following experience with me:

In 1991, while crossing the Northwest Passage, west to east, with Malcolm Vance, I encountered a presence that has never left me. One day, in the middle of winter in the McKenzie Delta, we stopped to give the dogs a rest and stretch our legs. We hadn’t seen the sun for weeks and it was -40 degrees Fahrenheit. As I was walking to the front of my sled towards Malcolm I suddenly felt as if someone was walking besides me. I quickly turned to look at my new companion. There was no one next to me yet I felt a definite “presence” at my side. I wondered if there was a bear in the area. I felt completely energized! I waited for a hand to reach out and touch my face. I kept walking towards Malcolm, and the presence stayed at my side. When I reached Malcolm I asked him if he saw or felt anything strange. He said that he didn’t.

A few days later, on the longest day of winter, we came to an old abandoned cabin with a makeshift cemetery in the yard. One of the graves was dated 21 Dec 1919. It made me wonder about the presence that I had experienced. Since that day I have been waiting for the presence to return to me. It has been as if someone has been traveling with me all these years and one day I will get to meet them. Shackleton, Richard Weber, and Wally Herbert have had similar experiences. Often polar explorers spend extended periods in total isolation; this in-turn, leads to elevated senses, a sort of sixth sense. During these periods it is not uncommon to encounter a “Third Person.”

Lonnie’s encounter stirred something deep inside of me. I have known Lonnie for a long time and his reflection rang true and I was grateful that he had shared this encounter with me. Lonnie is well known in the expedition world for his many arctic feats. He was the first person to traverse the Northwest Passage by dog sled, circumnavigate Greenland by dog sled and kayak, cross the polar cap in the summer, and summit Denali solo in January. Lonnie eats cold for breakfast. He has published two books and recently produced the film “Cold Love.” Lonnie has a great sense of humor, is, a master carpenter, great cook, steadfast friend, and a steward of the environment. In fact, he is one of my great Encounters in life.