How does a group of veterans get the chance to climb with elite mountaineer Conrad Anker? Why organize such a trip? These are the questions asked of me after unloading the van from our latest trip to Montana. They are easy questions to answer. This was Conrad’s idea I say. It came about when VetEx ran a trip in Glacier National Park last August with Conrad Anker and James Baylog of Chasing Ice. The trip was a veteran led climate recon team that was to look at climate change on an up close and personal level. On that trip our veterans got to climb a very remote peak in the park with Conrad Anker. A short film will be out soon from the trips sponsor, the Sierra Club. On the summit of Blackfoot Mountain, Conrad said to our group that we should come to Montana this winter and climb ice in Hyalite Canyon and that is exactly what we did.
And so the story continues. We climb ice with groups of veterans because it is fun, it is challenging, it brings up what we miss from active duty military service, camaraderie, team work, being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Trips like these help us step back, relax, talk about things we don’t talk to everyone about, and then take it all back to our day to day lives. Veterans learn new skills and develop old skills with the help of other veterans doing the same. Trips like these help fill the void of the normalcy of civilian life and help with that difficult transition from active duty service to civilian society.
We spent 4 nights out winter camping on this trip. The time spent away from technology is nice because all we have to do is climb and hang out with one another. The 11 veterans on this trip have stories to tell of their individual service. All 11 stories worthy of sharing and when told help shed light on the experiences of our men and women who serve in our military. It is so refreshing for me to see a diverse group of military veterans work together and become functioning members of our backcountry team. The bonds and connections made will stay with them long after the trip is over. I feel so fortunate to witness this over and over again. If the people of our nation could only see and witness what I experience on these trips and expeditions, veterans would have all the resources they need.
I want to give recognition to the 2 stories that have come out on this expedition already.
These stories help tell the story of what happens when veterans get outside together. Please read them for more perspective on the trips that Veterans Expeditions run. I would like to thank our sponsors the Sierra Club, the North Face, Petzl, Blue Water Ropes, Mountain Equipment Recyclers, Keen, Julbo, and Kahtoola. Please enjoy the following photos that tell the story of this trip much better than I can.
By Nick Watson
Co-Founder of Veterans Expeditions