Inside the Gates: Soldiers train to climb Denali

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 7:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s a slow process in an unforgiving environment. The Arctic Wolves from the Northern Warfare Training Center are in training to climb Denali.

Maj. Bob Hearon is among those who took part in the exercise earlier this month.

“I kind of dreamed of what that would be like,” Hearon said. “I absolutely love climbing, and love the outdoors.”

That’s about to be put to the test. Hearon and others in this group will try to reach the top of Denali in June.

“I’m glad I have this guy with me,” Hearon said of SSG Jonathan Swope. “He actually summited two years ago.”

Swope will try to make it two successful climbs to the top of North America’s tallest mountain.

“We’re just praying for luck and weather,” Swope said.

As the veteran of the group, Swope has advice for the rookies: be aware of the changes in altitude.

“Simple task of climbing out of the tent, just had to stand there and catch your breath,” Swope said. “It was like ‘how am I going to make it to the top of this peak? I can barely breathe right now.’”

The climb is an annual event for the Northern Warfare Training Center, and helps promote teamwork.

“Soldiers are placed in hard places, and expected to do hard things,” Hearon said. “In the middle of those times of hardship, some of the best, the strongest bonds are formed because you draw strength from one another.”

The soldiers now share a common goal: trying to reach the top of Denali.

The soldiers will head to Colorado in May for high altitude training. They come home for four days before they head to Talkeetna and try to reach Denali’s summit in June.

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