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A climber stands on a mountain peak.

Reaching new heights: Wounded veterans climb to honor and to heal

A team of wounded veterans embarked on an expedition through No Barriers Warriors to Summits to climb Wyoming’s tallest mountain in honor of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001 — and to overcome challenges complicating their lives.

October 13, 2015

“It's gnarly, it's got its cracks, it's got its dings.”

“It” is Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s tallest mountain, and a team of wounded veterans have spent several months training to climb it.

Through No Barriers’ Warriors to Summits program, the team’s journey has helped them better deal with challenges that include post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and amputations.

“I feel like succeeding on this trip is going to set me up for succeeding in life,” says Paul Smith, a U.S. Army veteran.

The team trained under the No Barriers guiding principle: “What’s Within You is Stronger Than What’s in Your Way.”

While weather conditions prevented the team from reaching the top of Gannett Peak, the members still reached new heights in their personal journeys.

The 2015 Warriors to Summits team begins its hike into the Wyoming backcountry.
U.S. Army National Guard, Ryan Kelly takes in the scenery along the trail.
Warriors to Summits team members look at the expansive view along the trail.
U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Yearsley and other team members take a break in an open meadow.
The team gathers around its campfire in the distance beyond its tents.
Team members sit in the late summer sunshine before resuming the trail.
Team members Gina Kothe, Ryan Kelly. and Nathan Wright enjoy some down time at camp.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Denny Salisbury raises his arms enthusiastically at camp.
U.S. Army veteran Paul Smith takes in the scenery along the trail.
A stand of trees cast dramatic shadows along the journey.
U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Yearsley makes his way along a portion of the trail with a dramatic view of the mountain in front of him.
U.S. Army veteran Boyd Murphy enjoys the scenery along the trail.
Team members make their way up and over huge boulders long the trail.
U.S. Army veteran Gina Kothe has a big smile at camp.
Expedition leader Jeff Evans soaks in the Wyoming sunshine while resting on a boulder along the trail.
U.S. Army veteran, and Wells Fargo team member Kyle Miller wears a helmet for one of the dangerous parts of the climb.
At camp, Team Gannett Peak discussed the terrain they would encounter the next day on the trail.
On the morning of September 11, the team held a moment of silence for those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
U.S. Army veteran Janet Gonzalez uses rope team skills for the mountaineering expedition.
A view of the glacier on Gannett Peak.
U.S. Army veteran Nathan Wright looks up as he reaches new heights with his team.
U.S. Army veteran Jim Stanek, Jr. looks to new heights as he ascends Gannett Peak.
From 12,800 feet, Team Gannett Peak’s tents at high camp looked tiny amid the massive boulders they were surrounded by.
The 2015 Warriors to Summits team began its expedition to Gannett Peak on Sept. 6, 2015.
As a captain in the U.S. Army National Guard, Ryan Kelly flew Black Hawk helicopter combat missions and commanded more than 100 soldiers and contractors in Iraq.
The team hiked a total of 60 miles through changing terrain during the expedition.
Mark Yearsley of Jerome, Idaho, served in the U.S. Air Force as an air traffic controller. In addition to his service during the Gulf War, he also served in Southwest Asia.
The mountain climbing expedition serves as an opportunity for growth and a catalyst for change.
Team Gannett Peak worked together throughout the summer to train for their mission to climb Gannett Peak.
Team members Gina Kothe, Ryan Kelly, and Nathan Wright enjoy some down time at camp.
Denny Salisbury of Lakeport, California, joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, burns, a broken ankle, and back injuries in an explosion in Iraq.
Paul Smith of Ardmore, Oklahoma, served in the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division for three years before being injured in an explosion in Iraq.
A stand of trees casts dramatic shadows along the climb.
Warriors to Summits operates on this fundamental principle: “What’s Within You is Stronger Than What’s In Your Way.”
Boyd Murphy of Springfield, Virginia, served with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 1/10 Field Artillery unit.
The team climbed through a daunting boulder field to get to high camp just below the summit of Gannett Peak.
Gina Kothe of Shokan, New York, joined the Army at age 16 via the delayed entry program. She has four children.
Jeff Evans is one of the expedition leaders for Warriors to Summits. He has been guiding climbing expeditions all over the world for decades.
Kyle Miller of Billings, Montana, served with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, 317th Engineer Battalion. He has been a Wells Fargo team member since 2005.
At camp, Team Gannett Peak discussed the terrain they would encounter the next day on the trail.
On the morning of Sept. 11, the team held a moment of silence for those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Janet Gonzalez served in the U.S. Army in a number of assignments, including casualty notification. She now lives in Bronx, New York.
The glacier on Gannett Peak is more than 10,000 years old.
Nathan Wright of Cypress, Texas, served five years as a forward observer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Originally from New York state, Jim Stanek Jr. was a volunteer firefighter who served at Ground Zero after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He was inspired to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he served with the 82nd Airborne and the 1st Infantry Division.
From 12,800 feet, Team Gannett Peak’s tents at high camp looked tiny amid the massive boulders that surrounded them.
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