News: Soldiers tackle North America’s tallest peak
Story by Staff Sgt. Mylinda Durousseau
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Seven Soldiers from 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division arrived at Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp May 21 in preparation for their ascent of Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.
The Fort Wainwright- based team is prepared to spend 14-21 days ascending more than 13,000 feet in some of the most severe conditions in Alaska in a test of their high altitude and mountaineering skills as well as the Army Mountaineering Kit.
“Climbing McKinley these Soldiers are going to live in unheated tents for about 20 days,” said Capt. Sam Palmer, 1/25 SBCT climbing team leader. “They’re going to learn arctic and cold-weather skills on a level no one else in their unit is going to have and they are going to be able to bring that depth of knowledge back [to the unit].”
Team members’ mountaineering skills range from having summitted McKinley last year to skiing for the first time in March. Their training began three months ago and was designed to ensure each Soldier would be prepared for this climb, regardless of their experience level.
With their training behind them and the mountain before them the team joked and laughed as they trekked across the snow, hauling their equipment from the plane to their camp, setting up tents and making preparations.
“The knowledge I’m gaining here and how everything incorporates in movement and being physical I can bring that back to my unit,” said Spc. Joshua Sexton, a cannon crewmember with 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. “We do a lot of training and snow shoeing and skiing so taking that back and explaining to the guys, how temperatures work and elevation and how to move through it, that could be a big help to us.”
Although the Army has had teams climb the mountain since 1980, this is the first year they will be doing so relying completely on the AMK. In the past, the Soldiers have worn a mix of civilian and Army gear. Changes in the Army’s cold-weather uniform, which includes silk base layers, windproof jackets and a soft-shell outer layer, make them fit for climbing McKinley, Palmer said.
In addition to clothing the AMK provides the Soldiers with climbing anchors, ropes, ice axes, crampons and a variety of equipment to help them traverse the unique terrain they will face. The kits also feature avalanche transceivers, gadgets that send a locating signal out in case soldiers are buried in an avalanche
Upon returning to their units the team members will share what they have learned from this experience with their fellow Soldiers and instruct them in how these skills can be used in any of the areas across the Pacific that they may be called upon to serve.
“The expedition validates training procedures used to maintain readiness for operating in austere, high-altitude, extreme cold-weather environments,” said Lt. Col. Alan Brown, U.S. Army Alaska spokesperson.