Alaskan Soldiers Prepare to Summit the Tallest Peak in North America


by Whitney LB Miller

ANCHORAGE -it's a daring feat that draws more than a thousand people each summer, an attraction in Alaska's own backyard.

Mt. McKinley is no easy task yet the army says they are prepared to conquer it. Your Alaska Link followed Ft. Wainwright's Denali Mountaineering team up to the 7200 foot base camp as they prepared to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

The tallest mountain in North America stands proudly at 20,328 feet, many come from all over the world to say they conquered the beast and some would say...

"it's pretty crazy, if you would have told me 2 years ago i would have laughed for days but now I'm out here surrounded by glaciers and mountains," said Private first class Joshua Sexton.

Sexton is only 21 years old and all ready he's embarking on the journey of a lifetime, summiting the highest peak in the Denali range.

"I'm a little nervous...we've done enough at this time to make it to the top safely letting that set in our mind," said Sexton.

The nine man team of climbers has only been training since march, practicing on the east Alaska range which is much like Denali but on a smaller scale.

The reason - training up their cold weather and mountain mission skills. Three of the members have already climbed the beast the other have never set foot.

"We just had them on ski's because two months to learn with a hundred pound sled and ruck sack is not a lot of time but they did it because they are awesome kids,"said team leader Capt. Samuel Palmer.

For many of the soldiers - they rely on their training to help them reach the top. However, Sexton says it doesn't hurt to have some experts on the team. And these experts say strategy and safety is key.

"For glacier travel we rope up, we wear helmets when its appropriate to protect ourselves from rock fall and we use snow picks to attach ourselves when necessary so we don't fall off,"said Palmer.

The team has 25 days worth of food - when good weather permits they can make it to the top and back in 14 days along the way they lighten their loads.

From base camp to the the very peak these men say they are ready and can handle anything - brutal weather and even extreme temps are no problem for a team that's rising to the top.

Since 1980 the US Army in Alaska has made more than 16 expeditions up Denali.