past August, I had the privilege and honor to climb in Glacier National Park as
a member of the Sierra Club’s Climate Recon Team and America's most proud
citizens, Veterans. Our goal was to understand the landscape, in particular
glaciers, and see how they are changing. We left for Glacier National Park the
12th of August.
the Veterans I met on this expedition, they were a group of people that I
really did not know. I am closing in on 50 and have a closer connection to the
Vietnam War. The guys and gals who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003
onwards are a generation younger than me. This was an opportunity to learn more
about these two conflicts.
met at St. Mary's, on the eastern side of the park. We had to sort through our
food for a week, pack it into bear proof vaults, and load it up onto our backs.
Our goal was to climb Blackfoot Peak, a spectacular peak in the Continental
Divide. Our first day was an enjoyable day. Easy hiking on a well maintained
trail, a fine group campground and no bears. The second day getting up into
Blackfoot Basin was a real challenge. The trail was no longer maintained and we
went overland. Sharp limestone talus, big trees, and chest high brush slowed us
down. Eventually we settled into a beautiful campsite next to a small lake on
rock recently exposed by glacial recession. This was our base camp for the next
three nights. The first day we practiced snow travel and rope safety. While the
team had all seen combat in hostile situations, climbing with 24 small knives
attached to you boots was a new experience. After self arrest practice we were
ready for our summit climb. We left camp at 4 a.m. after oatmeal and cowboy
coffee. The glacier was firm and secure and the one section of technical
climbing was well frozen.
the 16th of August we reached summit of the peak in clear and
blustery conditions. We looked out across the Continental Divide, looking west
towards the Columbia River and eventually the Pacific Ocean and looking north
and east out toward the mighty Missouri River and the Great Plains. After
unfurling our flag we paid our respect to fallen friends, soldiers and climbers
alike, and to the spirit of the Blackfoot Nation.
I learned on this expedition was the connection that I as a mountaineer share
with our military vets. It was a chance to get out, to be this 'Band of
Brothers', if you will, in a non-combat situation. We still need communication,
trust and reliance as a team to achieve our goals.
the Vets it was a chance to relate to each other in a non-combat situation and
to understand what they had been through. Having lost friends in the mountains,
there was a certain simpatico between soldiers and what I do. Thanks to my
attention to detail, my getting up early and making sure people were
caffeinated the team they gave the honorary nickname of Sergeant Major. Sergeant Majors motivate the troops and
stand out front and inspire team.
“Don't worry. The situation is crazy but you will be fine.”
hope that vets who have served will look to the wilderness - camping out with
their fellow vets and citizens - to rejuvenate their souls, to understand the
land that they put their life on the line to defend, and walk away from it with
a greater connection to the outdoors. I’m looking forward to our next