The summit of Mt. Elbert CO. The highest mountain in Colorado, 2nd highest in the lower 48 states. Veterans from the Army and Marines as well as Active Duty Airforce.
This Veterans Day we ran two trips, one in Colorado, and one in New York. The Colorado group climbed Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in the state at 14, 433 feet or so. The New York group climbed rock for two days in the Gunks. The veterans and active duty military that showed up and climbed with us this Veterans Day was dynamic and diverse.
Not your average Veterans Day Parade Colorado
We had first timers and outdoor professionals. Male and Female veterans showed up to be contributing members of the larger VetEx team. The time spent out with all these veterans and all these service stories was nothing short of awesome. Veterans let their guards down with one another and out came the stories of war and civilian life struggles and success.
VetEx East 2 days of rock climbing in the Gunks group.
Thank you to all those who have served. These trips are for you!
Major John Turner tearing up some rock.
The 3 Amigos. Army, Marines, Air Force Veterans getting after it!
Sometimes you get to go places on expedition and words cannot describe how amazing everything is. The pictures from our time traveling and climbing in Washington this September 11th say a thousand words. These volcanoes, trails, rocks, and forests were such an honor to spend quality time in and around. Glaciers, waterfalls, and mountains were everywhere.
Look left and see VetEx Co-Founder Nick Watson taking in the magnitude of this vast landscape with Glacier Peak looming in the distance.
From the lush forests of the North Cascade to the moonscape of Mount St. Helens. We traveled, hiked, and climbed this land with our eyes wide open and smiles upon our faces. Three veterans and one non-veteran traveling around and enjoying every second. We hiked and climbed long, hard days and took none of it for granted. Army, Air Force, and Marine veterans all exploring this new world together as a team. If this sounds like fun to you, get on the next trip with VetEx. See you all outside very soon.
The summit of Mount St. Helens on 9/11/13
We couldn’t do it with out the Keens on our feet.
CLIMBING TO OLYMPUS
Originally posted here http://sierraclub.typepad.com/planet/2013/09/climbing-to-olympus.html
Dan, Derek and Joshua on the summit of Mt. Olympus.
By Joshua Brandon, Sierra Club Military Outdoors Organizer
We climb for many reasons. We climb to challenge ourselves and we climb for spiritual fulfillment. We climb to mark the anniversaries of our victories as well as the tragedies. Last week, our team of veterans climbed for their own personal reasons in remembrance of the events of September 11th, 2001.
Dan after his first alpine lead.
Many in our community lost friends and family in the events of that day, but far more of us mark that day as the turning point in which our lives were forever changed in the ensuing conflict of the following twelve years. Regardless of various motivations, our team marks the event by challenging ourselves in the wilderness.
Crossing the gap.
From September 7th to the 12th, I joined veteran climbers Dan Wiwczar and Derek Quintanilla in a traverse of Mount Olympus and the Ridge of the Gods in the wilderness of Washington State for the annual 911 climb.
Supper below the Blue Glacier.
Over the course of five and a half days, we walked and climbed 48 miles with 11,000 feet of elevation change on five peaks and two glaciers. We traveled through one of the largest temperate rain forests on the planet, steep sub alpine hills, and glaciated alpine vistas encompassing some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country.
Ridge of the Gods, with objectives Athena and Athens Owl to the right.
I was proud of my team as they faced every challenge the mountain threw at us. Long distances, dangerous crevasse travel, fluctuating temperatures, and exposed climbs on rotten rock only seemed to make them stronger as the trip ground on.
Parting shot of Mt. Olympus rising above the Blue Glacier.
Dan was given no quarter on his first major glacier climb, and both he and Derek rose to the challenge in completing their first alpine rock lead climbs. The tougher the conditions, the bigger their smiles, the more dangerous the route, the louder they laughed. I’ve always been lucky to have veterans like these at my side in the wilderness.
Joshua picking a line.
Over the course of the climb I was left with the following thought: Each one of us turned to the mountains to find our way when we left the ranks, and each one of us continues to lead their fellow veterans to help them find their way after the war. Like the generations of veterans who have come before us, we have returned to the lands we once defended to heal.
On the approach.
While the lands we fought for will forever be intertwined with our lives, their importance to us is far greater than our individual purposes. These lands symbolize the very heart and soul of our nation, and our warriors are once more needed to defend them.
David Brower High Camp below Olympus.
Our wildest places define America itself, and it is in these wildest places that we will define our legacy for generations to come. We spilled our blood on foreign soil to preserve them, and now we must once again lead our countrymen in fighting to protect them. Go into wilderness to find your way, fall in love with the lands you defended, and lead our country in defending them a second time.
Derek and Dan on Athena’s Owl.
I’d like to personally thank Dan Wiwczar and Derek Quintanilla, above, for an amazing climb. I can’t say enough about your great display of character in tough situations. I’d also like to thank Sierra Club Outdoors, Veterans Expeditions, and Suunto for their generous sponsorship of this climb.
Joshua on lead.
All photos are by and with permission of Dan Wiwczar (Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Outside Adventure Film School graduate).
Our group after a day of fishing
On August 17th VetEx went charter boat fishing out of Newburyport Massachusetts. VetEx Co-Founder Nick Watson grew up just 15 minutes down the road. Nick’s Vietnam veteran father was present as was his brother. Veterans from all over New England showed up to go fishing with VetEx. The weather cooperated and provided calm seas and sunny skies for the 20 mile plus journey offshore.
The North side of Newburyport harbor.
It was one of those great days at sea. The winds were light and the fishing was great. Pollock, Cod, and Flounder were the fish species caught on the day. Lots of fish were caught and of course the big ones got away.
Army veterans who served together in Afghanistan, fish together with VetEx
Veterans of all abilities were present. The fishing was good. Spirits were high and many a story was told of service and sacrifice. Each veteran took their catch home and talked of doing it all again soon.
Army veteran holds the flag he flew in Afghanistan off the stern.
Thank you to Brian Herr and his family for his generosity that made this trip possible. Big thanks to Rich Brewer and One Warrior Won for all the help on this great week that saw veterans get out in the New Hampshire mountains as well as off shore fishing.
On August 15th a team of VetEx veterans set off to tackle the 5 peaks of the Northern Presidential Range. In all, 15 Miles and 8000 feet elevation gained climbing Mt. Madison, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Clay, and Mt. Washington.
We started early and had a spectacular weather day. Conversations were had about future trips and what was coming up for everyone. One veteran was busy working and getting through college, another was starting up a guiding company, one vet was not a vet at all, but still on active duty, another was working hard at getting other veterans outside. We walked and we walked. Lots of conversations were had about the fun times had in uniform and some other conversations about the tough times had by all members of our group. What a day. It was like a retreat and an ass kicking all wrapped up into one long day spent outside with your piers. If you have never experienced such a day out with veterans, then you may want to join us next time.
So why do we do it some might ask? The reply is up to the veteran. For VetEx, we see the value in veterans accomplishing their outdoor goals together. Magic happens on these trips. Vets get to experience what they miss about the military and then take it all back home with them. The long days replicate the types of effort needed to summit big mountains around the world and provide good training opportunities for future expeditions. Many of our veterans enjoy and work well in this type of outdoor environment. Come get out with us and see for yourself.
Mission Outdoors Josh Brandon on September 11th, why veterans climb, the power of vet led trips
VetEx Co-Founders speak candidly with Dirtbag Diaries August 2013
Wild River Fish’s Mark Rutherford on VetEx Alaska Expedition July 2013
Film Maker Magazine Article on the Veteran Outside Adventure Film School June 2013
Conrad Anker on Veterans and Climbing
National Geographic Adventure Article on VetEx Montana Ice Climbing Week March 2013
Climbing Magazine Veterans Day Issue November 2012
Boston Globe Article on 9/11/12 VetEx Mt. Washington Climb