Mountaineer Lonnie Dupre Is on His Fourth Attempt to Summit McKinley in January

For the fourth time, to diminishing fanfare, Lonnie Dupre is trying to do what has never been done: Reach the summit of Mount McKinley, alone, in the supremely inhospitable month of January.

Three previous attempts -- which started in December of 2010, 2011 and 2012 -- ended with the adventurer retreating from the mountain after being pinned down for days in snow trenches, nearly suffocated by blizzards and half-frozen by temperatures of 35 below.

During Dupre's ​expedition in 2010-11, when he was stuck for a week in a refrigerator-sized snow cave, "we thought he was going to die up there," said Kris Fister, a Denali National Park spokeswoman.

Still, Dupre keeps coming back for more.

Only 16 people have completed winter ascents of the 20,237-foot peak, according to park officials. Winter ascents are defined as occurring between the Dec. 21 winter solstice and the March 21 vernal equinox.

A Russian pair reached the summit in January 1998, and climbers have made it alone in months with marginally more daylight.

But no one has summited solo in January, the cold heart of an Alaska winter.

"For me Denali in winter is the closest I could ever come to climbing on another planet," said Andy Kirkpatrick, a British mountaineer who will make his own attempt on the peak in February.