Archive for the 'Mountains' Category



Michael Yon’s Mountaineering Photography

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 8 months ago

Those familiar with Michael Yon’s work remember him as much for his photography as his journalism – his snapshots in time that will be forever remembered because of his work.  But he has gotten better, technically speaking, with his photography.  Check out his Moonshine on Ama Dablam.  The photograph speaks for itself.

It’s a nice break from war coverage, especially for those who, like me, are fans of backpacking, mountaineering and adventure hiking and racing.

Turkey Pen Gap, Pisgah National Forrest

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 9 months ago

Smith’s backpack beckoned, saying “You know you can’t leave without me.  You know you need me.  Come.  Come to me … you have no choice.”

2009E 136

So Smith picked up his stuff again, hit the trail with Josh, and took in the beautiful vista.

2009E 138

Packing Army (Marine) Style

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 9 months ago

From Islandpacket.com:

Army_Training_AT

Drenched in sweat, Army Capt. Aaron Hall peeled off his soggy socks and applied a liberal dose of foot powder before slipping on a dry pair and rallying his troops back to their throbbing feet. For an outfit used to being ferried from fight to fight in armored vehicles, a 50-mile march through the Appalachians was a little much.

Perhaps no unit better exemplifies the challenges presented by the Army’s transition from desert warfare in Iraq to rugged mountain campaigns in Afghanistan than the 3rd Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade, whose tanks and Bradley assault vehicles were among the first to rumble into Baghdad in the 2003 invasion.

Under a 2007 plan to grow the Army and diversify its forces, 4th Brigade is the only mechanized unit being ordered to ditch its tanks and Bradleys and relearn how to move through a war zone on foot.

Which is how Hall and his soldiers found themselves zigzagging through the mountains of north Georgia, trying to cover 50 miles in three days. Even after serving last year as a platoon leader in Iraq, Hall wasn’t used to that kind of exertion.

“Whenever they said ‘road march,’ it was pretty much get in your Bradleys and ride 20 miles,” said Hall, 28, of Canton, N.C. “Now, it’s put on your boots and your rucksack and start walking. We’re our own transportation.”

Commanders say the retooled brigade should be ready to deploy again late next year.

About 40 percent of the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment’s soldiers are holdovers from the unit’s previous incarnation as the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment.

After the unit returned from its third Iraq deployment in December, its tank drivers, gunners and mechanics transferred to other units as the switch to light infantry took hold. Many infantrymen trained to fight with Bradleys, tracked vehicles that resemble small tanks, stayed and now are getting used to fighting on foot.

As a mechanized infantry unit, each soldier had a designated seat in a vehicle. As light infantry, a rifle company of 135 troops has just five vehicles — Humvees and trucks — to share.

1st Sgt. Chad Brown learned to count on the Bradley’s speed and lethal weaponry during his three tours in Iraq. His soldiers would travel to drop-off points shielded by the vehicle’s thick armor, then conduct foot patrols under cover of its mounted machine gun and 25 mm cannon.

“Going from mech my whole career to light infantry, there is a concern of, ‘Oh man, where is the heavy firepower?'<2009>” said Brown, 34, of Kingsley, Mich. “I’ve been shot at sitting in Humvees and in Bradleys, and obviously I feel much more comfortable sitting in a Bradley.”

For soldiers used to the protection of armored vehicles, getting them comfortable with the added exposure of maneuvering on foot is mostly about back-to-basics training, as that’s how troops just entering the Army learn to fight, said Maj. John Grantz, executive officer of the 3-15 Infantry.

Captain Hall is doing Marine-style humping.  But wait … WAIT … WAIT!  Maybe not.

In the interests of prompting, promulgating, promoting, protracting and prolonging highly destructive inter-service rivalries, I must ask the question, “where is the body armor?”  You know, that extra 32 pounds of weight (with the IBA) that drags you down?  And I see a day-pack (with hydration), but not the full backpack that comes in at 75+ pounds.  Tisk … tisk …

Recall our Marine in Helmand with 120 pounds plus a mortar plate? khanjar_ii

Okay, so much for the internecine rivalries.  I will be out of pocket for the weekend carrying a little bit less weight on my back through the Pisgah National Forrest and avoiding anything electronic or web-based including this web site.  Have a great weekend.  Go Army!  Go Marine!

Marine Team Wins Wilderness Challenge

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 9 months ago

My boys and I are fairly athletic.  I have been told that I need to include more pictures – my content is too “linear,” so this should break it up.  Below are pictures of (1) me and (2) a certain Marine (older brother taking the picture) before boot, SOI, fleet and then deployment to Iraq, somewhere near Mt. Mitchell, N.C., looking at the magnificent vista.

dad.jpg

marine.jpg

 A few months later we were rafting the Ocoee with challenging whitewater.  I have also rappelled, and there isn’t much in the outdoors we don’t feel fairly comfortable doing.  I might do fairly well at the Wilderness Challenge.  Then again, perhaps not.  U.S. and NATO Armed Forces teams did the Wilderness Challenge as an expedition race.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The Marines are this year’s Wilderness Challenge champs.

A four-person team comprising leathernecks stationed all around the country ended the competition Saturday with a first-place showing in the two-day event’s final (and arguably most punishing) race: a 14-mile, largely uphill slog through West Virginia’s share of the Appalachian Mountains. They knocked it out in 2 hours and 26 minutes.

A team representing the Navy took second place overall, finishing less than two minutes behind the leaders’ total time. Last year’s champs, a Coast Guard crew, earned third place this year, more than 15 minutes off the Marines’ time.

Navy and Coast Guard teams also placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

The top Air Force team finished in seventh place; the best Army showing was good for 12th.

The Wilderness Challenge, now in its seventh year, is billed as a team outdoor adventure competition for all five branches of the armed forces.

Forty-six squads — including four representing NATO — participated. The top NATO team placed 14th.

The event is held each fall along the New and Gauley rivers in southern West Virginia, about an hour south of the state capital, Charleston. It consists of six races spanning nearly 54 miles overall: one on bikes, two on foot and three in the water.

Saturday’s competition began at 7:15 a.m., soon after sunrise, and ended with an awards presentation more than 12 hours later.

West Virginia claims some of the most beautiful mountains, forests and landscapes in the world.  This race should be a good one for some time into the future, until West Virginia destroys their beautiful state with mountaintop removal coal mining.  Then it might have to move to any one of a number of expedition race locations around the country.

Congratulations to the winners.  They set the standard, and I expect the same from the Marines in 2008.

From the Crest Trail

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 8 months ago

Somewhere on the Crest Trail, Sandia Mountains, New Mexico, November 16, 2006.  Hiking at 10,000 feet elevation kept me winded most of the time.

Sandia 0311.jpg


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