Disabled Sports USA’s Warfighter Sports team of severely wounded warriors completed a summit of Aconcagua, a nearly 23,000’ mountain in the Andes of Argentina, South America. Aconcagua is the world’s highest mountain outside of Asia. For world class mountain climbers, Aconcagua is one of the prized “Seven Summits”, the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents of the world. The team’s daily journal is below (read from bottom to top).
A huge thank you to our generous supporters for making this climb possible!
The Warfighter Sports Team consisted of four wounded warriors from two generations and three wars, a doctor, John Podraza, MD, from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a world class guide, Ryan Waters, who has accomplished the “Adventurers Grand Slam,” Alexander (Alf) Garner, from Willis, a sponsor of the climb. The wounded warriors are Sgt. Chris Buckminster, USMC, who is dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury; Lance Corporal Colton Carlson, USMC, a double leg amputee; Captain Dave Borden, USMC, an above knee amputee; and Sgt. Kirk Bauer, US Army, an above knee amputee from the Vietnam war and executive director of Disabled Sports USA/Warfighter Sports.
The purpose of the climb is to inspire and motivate fellow wounded warriors and others, who are facing the challenge of rehabilitation after severe injury, to realize that they can lead active, fulfilling lives with their disabilities. The long, arduous step by step process of rehabilitation is very similar to climbing mountains. Both require dedication, persistence, planning and executing fitness programs, and, finally, “taking one step at a time” to the thousands that it takes to reach the goal of rehabilitation and summiting.
Epilogue – February 2, 2015
As we prepare to leave Argentina, I am once again reminded how dangerous and precarious Big Mountain climbing can be.
The big storm that our guide, Ryan, had been trying to avoid at the summit and the reason we moved up our summit schedule, finally hit. Remember, our successful summit was the 28th and we then hurried off the mountain.
At the airport we ran into climbers from Australia, which included some military who had just returned from Afghanistan, like Dave.
They attempted their summit day on the 31st. They hit 120 km winds that nearly blew them off the mountain. Some of the climbers were literally crawling up. They failed to reach the summit having to turn back 500 vertical feet from the top.
Worse yet the wind completely blew their tents and camp away at their high camp. Everything GONE. They had to keep climbing down all the way to base camp.
Worse yet for the English climbing team ahead of them, one fit Scottish climber died, evidently from some type of heart failure. They could not get him off the mountain to save him.
Thank you Ryan for your careful planning and caution.
Epilogue – February 1, 2015
Part of the message of the Aconcagua Challenge is that these wounded warriors have come back from extreme adversity in their lives and with the right attitudes, determination, opportunities, and resources put to their rehabilitation, have not only recovered, but have excelled in life.
Dr. Podraza’s life story is certainly similar and shows how far someone can go in life even under extreme adversity.
First, let me reiterate that John volunteered to assist DSUSA on the Aconcagua Challenge. John is a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and his experience as a physician at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center made him ideally prepared for this role. Dr. Podraza has extensive experience as a rock, ice, and mountain climber who has summitted Denali, the tallest mountain in North America and one of the toughest of the Seven Summits.
In addition, John is double board certified and has qualifications in: surface warfare, advanced trauma life support, advanced cardiac life support, basic life support, and is near completion of both a fellowship in wilderness medicine and a diploma in mountain medicine. Dr. Podraza has completed multiple tours of duty in more than 14 countries in support of national defense, the global war on terrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. One of John’s responsibilities as a doctor at Walter Reed is the wounded warrior adaptive sports programs. Our wounded warfighters are his patients, so he knew the challenges each of them encounter in their rehabilitation process. On the climb, he provided a level of care and assurance that was invaluable especially on decisions regarding Chris’ continued participation in the climb.
We have definitely benefited by his addition as a member of the team. But now let me share with you some of his background that makes his story even more impressive and related to our message of hope and opportunity.
For various tragic and unfortunate reasons, John found himself to be homeless at a young age in Brooklyn, New York. He slept under newspapers under park benches, dived into dumpsters at fast food restaurants to get food, would sneak into lobbies of apartment buildings to sleep during cold winter weather.
John was finally sent to a boys home called Boys Hope where he lived until his graduation at 18. During that time he loved to play football and was very good at it.
A private Catholic high school, Monsignor Farrell, had a national reputation for one of the best high schools for football. They saw John’s talent and offered him a scholarship to play for the school. John took advantage of this first opportunity and received a top education while living in the boys home.
While playing at Farrell High School, Lehigh University recruited him to play Division 1 football and he was fortunate to receive a scholarship to pursue his undergraduate degree. He was later recruited to join the US Navy under the health professions scholarship program and completed his medical degree at the University at Buffalo. John has served in the US Navy since May of 2000.
John’s story shows that success in life is achieved with BOTH the right attitudes in facing adversity and the resources made available to achieve success. In DSUSA’s Warfighter Sports rehab program, we can provide the resources to achieve independence through participation in sports but the wounded need to bring to the table the right, positive attitude to pursue these sports as part of their rehabilitation. Most do and for that reason their rehabilitation is successful.
Epilogue – January 30, 2015
After Colton´s super human effort (actually 19 hours after we re-calibrated) and what Doc described as his single most demanding one day climb he has ever made (and as I said before he has climbed one of the toughest Denali) we had to prepare to climb down the next day. Alf was a marvelous support all the way, despite the fact that he was totally drained on a roughly 14 hour climb and descent to Cholera Camp at just under 20,000.
Colton said he was never so tired in his life, starting at 4 AM and returning at 11:17 PM. He literally fell asleep climbing and ended up flat on his face. His right eye looked into the sun, started an aura, and then he could no longer see on that side until it got dark and his eye recovered. He was in a state where he was “there but not there” at about hour 14. Coming down the toughest part of the climb, he passed out (or fell asleep again) and had to be carried to a cave about 150 yards to recuperate. Remember, an above knee/below knee amputee expends about 200% more energy so he did the equivalent of a 28 hour climb at 23,000 feet.
The next day we had to descend. We started at Cholera just under 20,000 feet, at about 11 AM. Colton started his decent a bit later. Most everyone got down fast. I on the other hand rolled into Base Camp at about 8 PM with the knee unit operating very poorly. So, I ended up sliding on my butt on the 45 degree terrain a good 1/4 of the way! Much faster but a sore butt and no pants, long underwear and underwear were left! I actually used my socket to take most of the wear just sliding slightly on my side to take the beating from the rocks and sand. My prosthetist will love this!
We hit base camp which signaled the official end of our Summit attempt. We had dinner with Malbec wine (of course) to celebrate and then made plans for the finally leg.
As I said in my report, I was very glad to come down to lower elevation as my body was starting to really feel the effects. Flu like symptoms, shortness of breathe, very fatigued in doing anything, headache, no appetite and no desire to even drink water (very bad as dehydration is a big danger at those altitudes), lack of sleep because the body is constantly waking you up gasping for air, and severe cold temperatures at night).
January 29, 2015
A brief update! 7 of 10 of the Warfighter Sports and Mountain Professionals team summited today, including Colton Carlson, our Marine double leg amputee! More news coming!
Update 2 from Kirk Bauer:
After an extraordinary 18-hour marathon at 23,000 feet, Colton has accomplished an indescribable feat for a double-leg amputee to reach those heights.
Our effort are now complete at the summit and we have to now get down to base camp at 13,500. We have to remember, when we are at the summit, we are only halfway done – we still need to get down.
To complicate matters, Colton’s knee unit has blown out. He has come part way down using his blowout knee but it’s very, very difficult for him. Dave has given Colton his backup knee and I have given him my crutches and he is going to try to hobble his way down to base camp.
Being at 20,000 feet, it really does a job on your body and it can be dangerous. At that level, you do not have an appetite, your body processes only simple sugars; not proteins and you can’t sleep at night due to the extreme cold and the body not getting enough oxygen — you are constantly waking up and gasping for breath.
We are heading down now so we can out of the really high altitude and get somewhere where we all feel a little more normal.
Update from Kirk Bauer:
After two days of setbacks, today is a day to celebrate! Three of the six members of our Team Warfighter Sports Aconcagua Challenge summited today including our youngest and most severely disabled 24 year old double leg amputee Marine Lance Corporal Colton Carlson. Congratulations Colton for a super human effort! Remember that we all did this without any altitude medications or supplemental oxygen.
The 14 members, Doc Podraza and Alf Garner summited first. Doc was very chilled so he proceeded down the mountain. Doc said this was the toughest one day climb he has ever done and Doc has done Denali in Alaska which is considered by some experts to be the toughest. And thank you Alf for your efforts.
This just shows the determination and strength of our wounded warriors. It also show that with clear goals, preparations and the right resources, success can produced for even the most severely disabled.
For resources we have the corporate support of two outstanding corporations, AIG and Willis! We also have generous support from Semper Fi Fund and Disabled Sports USA and its Warfighter Sports rehab program.
Thank you to our Mountain Professional guides and our individual donors. Finally, thanks to Michelle for all of the logistical planning and equipment purchases the outstanding staff at Disabled Sports USA. This is a great day!
January 28, 2015
Our team is going for the top early in the morning. We actually have two waves of groups departing in the morning; the first will be Colton with two of our guides leaving very early at around 3 am. The second will be Alf and John departing high camp around 5 a.m. with our other two staff.
Dave has called camp Colera his high point. He did an amazing job reaching this point and is an incredibly strong climber, Dave is an above knee amputee and showed great resilience throughout our climb.
Kirk, who is the main man of this group and one of the strongest and determined people we know, was on the way to an even higher camp today with Ryan. The pair had a good discussion about the length and realities of the next day to reach the summit, Kirk had been very strong throughout the journey, just a bit slower given his above knee amputation. The two determined that an epic long summit day could be too much from a safety standpoint so they returned to Colera.
Update 2 from Kirk Bauer:
This is Kirk Bauer with Team Warfighter Sports on Aconcagua. There is another setback for the team. The high altitude, constant cold and constant wind is certainly continuing to take its toll. Today Ryan and I set out to establish a camp at 1,000 feet higher on the mountain to give me a shot at getting to the summit tomorrow. This is because I just move slowly but I almost always get there. Speed on Summit Day is critical because the guides need to get us to a safe camp like Colera before nightfall and bad weather.
A summit day for a non-disabled climber is usually about 14 hours so it can take even longer for us. After a few hours of literally sucking air on the very steep terrain, Ryan presented me with a stark scenario. I was moving too slowing and we might make our camp before dark but tomorrow on summit day, he would have to pull me off the mountain at some point and send me back. The altitude was finally getting to me. He would then have to take a guide off of the summit attempt, which would hurt that effort.
The logical step for us was to return back to Camp Colera and let the rest of the team support Colton’s attempt tomorrow. With much regret we turned back. I am very much disappointed but I told the team back at camp that I would not have given up this opportunity for any setback. I got to know this team of Warfighters who are determined, dedicated and caring individuals who inspire me beyond words. The support staff like Alf and John, and yes, Chris, who gave of their time, simply because they care (ok, I guess we are all a little adventurous too) and the Mountain Professions guide group who are led by Ryan Waters, who has accomplished the Adventures Grand Slam (all of the seven summits and traversed the South Pole and North Pole unassisted).
So folks, I’m looking forward to seeing Colton come off the summit tomorrow, make our last attempt on Aconcagua and to returning home to all of our supporters who gave us the opportunity to send a strong message to the world about the tremendous strength and achievements of our wounded warriors. This is Kirk Bauer with Team Warfighter Sports, Aconcagua signing off.
From Kirk Bauer:
We are now all at 20,000 feet at Camp Colera.
The head guide, Ryan, has decided that Dave would end his climb here — safety is always the first rule. Dave is very strong and a fast climber, but has had to constantly battle facing the extreme heights involved in climbing the world’s tallest mountain outside of Asia.
With all the challenging precipices that are at the summit of Aconcagua, the guides were concerned that he could get into a situation where it might become dangerous for Dave or the team. There is no helicopter or rescue opportunities at the summit.
This is the nature of high mountain climbing and the professional guides have the final say in these matters of safety and literally life and death.
Dave was not happy about not summiting, but he understands the decision. Coming back from a suicide bomber attack that nearly killed him, then serving two combat tours with the Marines in Afghanistan and now making it to 20,000 feet on this climb, show Dave’s true, remarkable mettle.
The rest of the team will continue climbing tomorrow.
January 26, 2015
Now the summit push is on in the next days. We have spent the past couple of days at Nido Condores around 18,400 feet. One of our team members Chris has returned to base camp as he was having some problems with headaches. Chris is one of our disabled veteran team members who suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury. We had been monitoring him for a day and our guide staff as well as the Doc decided the best thing was for Chris to return down to base camp due to an increasing state of possible AMS. Along with other complications, we felt the situation needed to be handled conservatively.
We have a weather report that shows strong winds are likely on the 29th so we are going to try for a shot at the summit on the 28th. Tonight, Kirk and Ryan are at Colera camp just under 20,000 feet to get a jump on a summit push.
The rest of the team, Colton, a double leg amputee, Dave, an above knee single amputee as well as Doc Podraza and Alf will all come up to Colera tomorrow with our other guides, Tomas, Chirring, and Mike. More news as it unfolds!
This is Kirk Bauer on January 26th for Team Warfighter Sports on Aconcagua. The weather trackers and the guide team have suggested that we start our plans for the summit. The revised plans now are that I and the head guide, Ryan Waters, move up to Colera, which we have done today, on the 26th. The rest of the team is going to come up to Colera tomorrow on the 27th. I will move go on the 27th to Camp Black Rock, which is about 1,000 further up the mountain, to get me closer to the summit. And then the following day, the 28th, both teams will be attempting to summit the mountain and hopefully get there at the summit at the same time. This is due to a weather pattern coming in and we want to try to see if we can make our summit attempt before the severe weather sets in.
January 25, 2015
This is Kirk Bauer from Aconcagua.
Rest is the theme today.
We are at 18,400 feet. Today, we acclimate to the altitude by reading, listening to music, eating, taking pictures and recharging our solar batteries.
Three of the team have never been this high before: Dave , Colton and Chris. Colton and Dave practice some rope climbing.
One more day here at Nito as a weather front is coming in with snow and high winds on Monday.
At these altitudes, it is important to rest and acclimate to prevent sickness from high altitudes – acute mountain sickness (AMS). AMS can hit even the most experienced mountain climbers and some members of our team are feeling the effects of the altitude. Tomorrow is a second rest day and then we head up.
January 24, 2014
The team says hello from camp two! What an amazing group that just keeps fighting its way up the mountain. It was a long day for some of the team but regardless everyone reached camp and has been enjoying the views overlooking the Andes.
We think there will be a couple days of calm weather with the chance of some snow, we have a full rest day here tomorrow so we are going to continue to look at all the variables as a couple days pass, to see the weather outlook, how everyone is feeling, and we will get some things up the mountain to the next camp so we have options ahead. We are optimistic as a team and look forward to a rest tomorrow!
This is Kirk Bauer
We are now close to 18,000 feet at Nido.
Everybody made it up. Altitude is starting to affect people, but the other wounded warriors did great today. Today for them was about a 5 hour climbing today. For me, it took 7 hours. Everybody’s here
Weather is holding up very well, but calling on adverse weather starting on Monday. We have one more camp after this or maybe two
We are slowly making it up the mountain!
January 23, 2015
Things are moving along now with the climb. The entire team climbed up to Camp Canada or our camp one location yesterday. We had a nice night up high enjoying the west aspect of the mountain late sunset. After dinner we talked a bit about glaciers as we had a beautiful view down to the Horcones glacier below.
Today is a combination of rest day ‘for the guys with prosthesis and a carry day for everyone else. Our guide staff is busy shuttling loads of food and gear ahead to Nido de Condores or camp two. The rest of our team will carry part of their personal gear forward to the camp and we all return to sleep another night in camp one. Spirits are high and we continue to work hard but also have fun!
This is Kirk Bauer. Some of the support group took materials and supplies up to the next camp which is Nido de Cóndores. Those of us with prostheses stayed down and rested for another day but tomorrow we will be heading up to the next camp.
We talk a lot at Disabled Sports USA about needing to adapt sports equipment and prosthetic devices, especially when we have a disability. That adaptive outlook also applies to our physical environment.
This is true for everyone, not just those with disabilities. Training for mountain climbing is a good example. Most of Team Warfighter Sports did not live near mountains. Colton had good options as he lives in Colorado, but the rest of us were not that fortunate.
Alf lives and works in New York City. Chris, Doctor Podraza and I live in the Washington DC area and Dave was serving in Afghanistan. Most of us live in flat urban areas with only a few small hills. Also, we are in school or working at demanding jobs so we had to take training opportunities which were quick and convenient to access. We had to make adaptations for our training.
Chris, for example, trained in three parks in Baltimore. He had a 10-mile route of what hills he could find and used them to train over and over again.
Alf trained on the weekends hiking all night in the Hamptons.
I work full time as the Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA. Our office is a 7 story building, and I would climb the inside stairs to the top floor, take the elevator down to the 1st floor keeping my heart rate up continuously and then climbing up again. Over time, I built up so that I could do this 70 times which equals climbing 4,000 feet.
I live west of Baltimore, just two miles from a state park, so I hike short but steep trails there. I’ve built up to hike 10 hours at a time to build endurance. Also, I have mapped a 2.5 mile course through my neighborhood so I can just walk out my door and start walking.
I was looking for some more demanding local climbs a few weeks before we left, my son Josh and I climbed Old Rag in Virginia which is a seven to eight hour scramble up and that is 80% what we have here.
Also when traveling, and I do that a lot, I have to find opportunities to train. The week before I left for Aconcagua, my lady Reggie and I went to St. John, Virgin Islands (which I highly recommend). We did a 3 mile trail over an 800 foot hill which had beautiful vistas of the Caribbean Sea but was tough and rocky.
So, as with disabilities, if we want to stay active and engaged in the sports that we love, we also have to apply adaptive approaches to our training.
January 22, 2015
Time to start heading up the mountain for this crew! Today was our last rest day at base camp before we move onto the mountain for the duration. It was an all-around good day in a lot of ways. For the wounded veterans it was another casual hang out day so that they could rest before the move onto the mountain.
The other part of our team, the support guys, did a carry to Camp Canada today in order to bring some of their personal gear up as well as to get some acclimatization. So we were all doing several different things today.
The guides brought up 4 loads of group gear and food to the camp 1 location, and Mike spent some time with our soldiers who have leg amputations on the hill near camp. They were getting used to a few techniques we plan to use such as short roping over steep rock steps. This was a big confidence builder for the guys!
We are heading to our camp one tomorrow so we are excited to get up on the mountain and will report in soon!
Kirk Bauer reporting from Aconcagua, Argentina on January 22, Thursday. Today the Aconcagua Challenge Team Warfighter Sports got up early and spent approximately seven hours climbing about 2,000 feet elevation to Camp Canada, our first camp above base camp. So right now we are at about 16,000 ft. We will rest here for one day and then the following day we will head up to the camp above Camp Canada. Everyone is in good spirits, the hike was difficult but definitely doable. It was steep but everybody handled it very well. So far there has not been any altitude sickness or any adverse effects from anything. Everybody is in good shape and we are ready for a day of rest and then heading back up the mountain. Just letting everyone know we are on our way. This is Kirk Bauer signing off.
January 21, 2015
Today is the final day of “acclimation” before we climb to Camp Canada. Today was also a perfect example of adaptations we have made to help ensure success for the team of wounded warriors.
For example, most teams of non-disabled use this day to climb to the next camp and drop off supplies and then come down to base camp to sleep and then climb to the next camp. Because we amputees need to rest our stumps we do not do this, we rest instead. We will also go up slower, possibly establish more camps along the way as another adaptation learned from our climbs of Kilimanjaro and Denali.
However Alf Garner (Willis), Doc Podraza (Walter Reed) and the team of guides from mountain professionals did ferry supplies up to the next camp and have returned for dinner here at Base Camp. This, along with some porter assistance, will certainly help lighten our load a bit when we climb tomorrow.
Also, in another adaptation, today the team practiced climbing roped in together. Normally, the climbers do not do this but the slopes will be steep and slippery and the drop off dangerous so our guides have decided to use this technique if necessary.
We are ready to go!
(Below is a note from volunteer climber Alf Garner)
As an essential, able-bodied volunteer, for me i think that Monday summed it up. we left Confluencia for onward hike to base camp which known as Plaza de Mulas. for able-bodied climbers it takes roughly 8 hours……
Kirk, Dave and Colton left camp at 5.30am that day and arrived some 15 hours later and made it. When we knew they were about to arrive those that were already at camp ran down to greet them. Everyone, and I mean everyone was choked up to see them. We new how hard it was for us to make it……and the effort by single leg amputees let alone double amputee was herculean. It was frankly incomprehensible how they did. The trek was long and hot during the day, and ended zig zagging up over 3,000 feet of elevation. As i write this note I cant help but feel so humbled and honored to be with these guys. not one complaint from anyone, not one.
These guys knew what they signed up for and expect no pity. its all about awareness that we can make a difference to theirs and others lives.
We head up the mountain for next 10 days and on to the summit…..be in touch later
January 20, 2015
Yesterday we started our trek from Camp Confluenzia (about 11,000) do Plaza de los Mulas or Base Camp(13500). We knew it would take a long time with uneven terrain and steep rocky climbs so we started before light at about 5:45 . We hiked with headlamps for about an hour until sunlight and continued on.
At this point the path was easy to negotiate but Colton continued to have problems with the fit on one of his legs so he had to continually adjust. I knew he was hurting some, but he never complained and kept on going despite the discomfort. I also was dealing with getting used to a new mechanical knee unit which made for more work in walking but it did work out fairly well for me and I was able to keep up a good pace.
All along the trail we were passed by <mules taking supplies for the hikers and park service staff at base camp. Some of the climbers also ride mules there and then start there climb. Faster and easier but we passed on that option because we felt that it was important to do the entire climb, including the hike into base camp. That’s the Marines for you!
Turns out this hike to base camp was extremely hard, rough and took us a total of 15 hours! So we did not arrive there until nearly 9 pm that night. It was grueling for me for sure and I was running on empty by the end but we all made it and that is all that mattered. The others handled the hike very well and except for some very sore stumps and muscles all are in good shape.
The scenery was very stark but the mountains are massively beautiful. <only green around the river that flows along the route, which is fed by a glacier near Aconcagua. After a few hours hiking Doc Podraza and Colton were able to partially alleviate the prosthetic problem and at least it did not get worse.
After about 11 hours of climbing we hit this steep mountain that had switchbacks with the path very loose rock, shale and sand and an extremely steep drop off from the trail. All the amputees had a very difficult time getting and keeping a grip with our prostheses and at one point Colton ended up sprawled on the ground only feet from a steep and dangerous drop off. We were all glad to get through that part of the trail!
Base Camp is quite an operation with Park service buildings,. internet Tent, showers, meal tents and even bunk tents you can rent to sleep in. Everything is brought in by either mule or helicopters and they are in and out all day it seems.
Of course you pay for all these services but it is worth it! This is the second largest base camp at a big mountain, with only Everest larger.
That’s it for now folks. Thanks again for all of our friends and supporters and our sponsors AIG, Willis and Semper Fi Fund!
January 19, 2015
The group is in base camp at Plaza de Mulas after a long trek today. Most everyone is now already asleep! We are doing well and ready for a rest day tomorrow so we will send a longer update as well as photos, more soon and good night from way up here at the base of Aconcagua!
January 18, 2015
This is Kirk Bauer with Warfighter Sports on Aconcagua. We arrived in Confluencia, 11,000 Ft elevation yesterday, Saturday, January 17th. The trail was rocky but not too difficult to negotiate. We rested a bit, set up the tent and then ate dinner. The weather is hot and dry here, during the day getting into the 90’s but gets cold at night. Conditions on the summit for just this week, it was 0° F with winds at 55 mph with the wind chill at – 31°. We’ve had some issues with prosthetics but working through everything. My computer controlled hydraulic knee which helps me walk smoother on rough terrain gave out and I’ve had to revert to a mechanical knee which does not work well on rough terrain. It is definitely a bummer. Tomorrow we leave for the climb to base camp, about 13,500 feet, better known as Plaza de Mulas. It is a well-equipped camp run by the park service, the largest on the mountain and one of the largest high mount camps. There we will rest and acclimate to the altitude for 3 days. We are all anxious to get there. We want to get to the base camp so we can begin our climb, our real climb on the mountain.
Our group spent the day at Confluencia camp to use as a rest and acclimatization day. Tomorrow we will have a long trek up to base camp and climb several thousand more feet in elevation. So taking an extra day here at this camp will allow us to arrive tomorrow feeling better with the altitude.
Today we spent the time hanging out, doing some recharging and maintenance on a prosthetic leg, and part of the group went on an easy acclimatization hike up to a nice lunch spot.
The whole group is doing well, with only a small amount of making fun of each other and the jokes have stayed pretty clean, however we are still early in the expedition so it may only go downhill from here.
We are going to get a very early start in the morning to trek in the milder weather and to arrive at base camp at a good hour. We are trucking along here and so far so good!
First Day Done!
Hello from Confluencia camp at about 10,000 feet. The first day of our trek to base camp was really nice and we had an awesome walk on the trail!
We slept last night in Penitentes, had a way too big dinner, and got a lot of sleep on our last night of civilization. We spent part of the morning finalizing our bags that the mules carry for us. We got a transport to the trail head and began walking at 11:30 on a bright sunny day with clear blue sky. It was quite hot but not too bad, so we made good time and rolled into camp with lots of time to move in and enjoy some casual hanging in the dome tent and meeting other climbers from all over the world.
So far everyone is feeling really strong and excited to finally be out on the trail and on the way to the mountain! We get more excited talking about the different aspects of the trip to come! Buenas Noches! Good Night!
January 16, 2015
Away we go!
Hello from the team here on the DSUSA Aconcagua trip.
Everyone is set to go and the group is just finishing up a big lunch in town prior to our departure for Penitentes. We will stay tonight in a hotel and the guide staff will be sorting all the final loads to be carried by Mule.
A word from Kirk – Executive Director of DSUSA
“Impressed with the thoroughness and proficiency of all the Mountain Professionals staff and all of the DSUSA staff for the smooth travel and transition from the USA to today, where we are all informed and ready to go, with time to pack and rest and be ready, everything has been very smooth so far”
Ok we are off very soon, so wish us the best of luck and please follow along here on the site or also on the DSUSA page.
Tomorrow, we begin our travels to Argentina to start the Warfighter Sports Aconcagua Challenge! On Thursday and Friday, we arrive, sort gear, get permits and prepare for the expedition up the world’s tallest mountain outside of Asia. Our Warfighter Sports team — Kirk, Chris, Colton, Alf, Dave and John — will be tackling one the the world’s greatest climbing challenges, and our progress and updates will be posted here daily. A huge thanks to Willis, AIG, Team Semper Fi as well as our individual supporters for making it possible for us through this effort to raise the public’s awareness of the abilities of our country’s wounded warriors!
In January 2015, Disabled Sports USA’s Warfighter Sports Team of severely wounded warriors will attempt a summit of Aconcagua, a nearly 23,000’ mountain in the Andes of Argentina, South America. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in either North or South America and is the highest in the world outside of Asia. For world class mountain climbers, Aconcagua is one of the prized “Seven Summits”, the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents of the world. Mt. Everest in Asia is the most famous of these “Seven Summits”.
“After serving thousands of severely injured service members from Iraq and Afghanistan through rehabilitation sports programs for the past ten years, our disabled veterans are now yearning for more opportunities to test their skills to the extreme, as they did in the military,” said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA and a disabled Vietnam Veteran. “They can now literally climb some of the tallest mountains in the world; to challenge themselves and inspire wounded warriors and others to become active and reach their goals and dreams in life.”
Meet the Team
Christopher Buckminster, 28, was injured in 2010 on tour in Afghanistan, where he suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. Chris completed his rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD where he was introduced to adaptive sports. He completed the 26.2 mile Bataan Memorial Death March with Disabled Sports USA’s Warfighter Sports program.
Colton Carlson, 23, was three months into a tour in Afghanistan in May 2012 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He sustained injuries that caused him to lose significant portions of both of his legs. While rehabilitating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Colton was introduced to adaptive sports. His most recent accomplishment with Disabled Sports USA’s Warfighter Sports program was completing the grueling Bataan Memorial Death March, a 26.2 mile grueling course through the White Sands Missile Range, crossing the finish line with Disabled Sports USA’s Executive Director, Kirk Bauer. Colton is a Purple Heart recipient. He currently lives in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife Danae.
David Borden, 33, lost his right leg above the knee in September 2008 while on tour in Iraq when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near him. Borden completed his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and then returned to active duty where he has completed two more tours, one as the Aide to the Commanding General of Regional Command Southwest. David participated in the Warfighter Sports 2010 Denali climb as well as several ski and golf events. For his service, David was awarded a Purple Heart.
As DSUSA’s Executive Director since 1982, Kirk has taken a small, all volunteer organization, and made it one of the nation’s largest sports and recreation organizations serving over 60,000 youth and adults with disabilities annually. As an active leg amputee at 66, he annually engages in 100 mile “century” bike rides; the Bataan Memorial Death March, a 26.2 mile endurance hike in the desert of New Mexico; and other sports activities. In 2010, he led a team of amputee veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on a successful summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, which at 19,341 feet is the highest mountain in Africa. The amputee team had “one good leg” between them. In May 2013, he was awarded the President’s Council Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the advancement or promotion of physical activity, fitness, sports, or nutrition nationwide. Kirk holds a Doctorate of Law Degree from Boston University School of Law and a BA in Political Science from the University of California. A Vietnam War veteran, he is the recipient of two Bronze Stars for heroism in battle and the Purple Heart. He is a native of Oakland, California and now lives near Baltimore, Maryland.
John Podraza is an intensive care physician and surface warfare medical officer for the US Navy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. John is actively involved as a team physician for multiple wounded warrior adaptive sports programs at Walter Reed. In addition, John is also an accomplished rock, ice, and mountain climber and is currently pursuing a fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.
Alf Garner, 44, is the CEO of Faber Global North America and a true adventurer. A first degree black belt in Taekwondo and certified SCUBA diver, Alf has also summited Mount Kilimanjaro and sky dived on three continents. Garner has run two marathons, and has completed 12 triathlons, including a half Ironman. Alf is an avid reader of nonfiction books and has been involved with fundraising for Disabled Sports USA and the Warfighter Sports program for the last four years.
A huge thank you to our generous supporters for making this climb possible!
Warfighter Sports, a program of Disabled Sports USA, offers sports rehabilitation for wounded warriors with permanent physical disabilities in military hospitals and communities across the U.S. in partnership with a nationwide network of over 100 community-based chapters. Contributions cover all expenses for participation of the warrior and a family member, including individualized adaptive instruction, adaptive sports equipment, transportation, lodging and meals.
Since 1967, Disabled Sports USA has proudly served wounded warriors, including those injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, offering over 30 winter and summer sports at more than 100 events each year. Warfighter Sports rebuilds lives through sports by improving self-confidence, promoting independence and uniting families through shared healthy activities.
Since 2003, more than 8,200 of the most severely wounded and their families have been served, including those with amputations, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, visual impairments, and significant nerve and muscle damage. For more information, visit www.warfightersports.org.