To the summit and back


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

Rangers’ expedition on Denali to honor comrades who’ve died since 9/11 turns into mountain rescue

By Marisa Petrich
Northwest Guardian

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (USASOC News Service, June 14, 2011) - Late one night at about 17,000 feet, five Ranger Non-Commission Officers woke up. The temperature was 20 below zero, the winds were nearing 40 mph and somewhere their fellow mountain climbers needed help.

These five Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were climbing Denali, the highest point in North America, to honor 11 Rangers who had been killed since 9/11. The 20,320-foot Alaskan mountain is known for its unforgiving conditions.

That night in May a group of four climbers fell. The Rangers helped carry the surviving two back to their camp, where they waited to be medevaced off the mountain, and delayed a final push for the summit. The next day they kept climbing.

“There wasn’t really an option for us,” Staff Sgt. Joseph Lachnit III said.

The experience reminded them that climbing the mountain with a summit rate of about 50 percent was not to be taken lightly — but neither was their mission. No matter how bad things got, they had 11 reasons to keep going, each one represented by a name tape on a 2-75 Ranger flag that they brought all the way to the top.

All five Soldiers made the summited the mountain on May 27, accomplishing a goal Lachnit set three years ago. He wanted to honor his fellow Rangers who had died — but also those who are living, whose stories are rarely told.

The team has been working together since early April, when members were selected to represent the battalion on the climb. Lachnit, Staff Sgt. Austin McCall, Staff Sgt. Keith Pierce, Sgt. Kyle Cresto and Staff Sgt. David Ray all had previous climbing experience, not to mention the skills they’ve used routinely on deployments in Afghanistan.

“(Mountaineering’s) where our roots come from, I think,” Lachnit said.

They also had the support of their fellow climbers. Every day they’d wake up to find food and fuel outside their tents, left by climbers who had turned back. Of the 300 climbers on the mountain during their expedition, getting Team Ranger to the summit was a top priority, Lachnit said. And really, it’s good that it was — because there was no way they were turning around.

“We would have stayed up there for two months if we’d had to,” Lachnit said.
I graduated RIP with Lachnit, great guy. Pierce is an animal, I think he has done Best Ranger twice. I remember Pierce self-administering an IV during some training event, crazy mofo.
That's awesome. I've always loved the outdoors and learning to climb/mountaineer would be amazing. Congrats to these guys.
Totally in keeping with what Rangers are/should be. Not surprised at all, and would be nice to see if MSM picks up this. Not likely though... :(

That is fantastic! Incredible story and what a way to honour their Brothers. It never ceases to amaze how challenges for many, are matter of fact, get it done, drive on situations for those chosen few.