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Face of Defense: Soldier Aims to Scale Highest Peak

By Army Pfc. J. Princeville Lawrence
Special to American Forces Press Service

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE, Basra, Iraq, Dec. 28, 2009 – Toward the end of every soldier’s deployment comes the time to decide what’s next.

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Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Bari, shown here in front of Mount Rainier, said he plans to climb Mount Everest in 2012. Bari climbed a portion of Mount Rainier while preparing for his deployment to southern Iraq. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Bari, a medic serving with the 34th Infantry Division here, plans to climb mountains after he departs Iraq.

Bari intends to start small as part of his ultimate goal of scaling the world’s highest peak: 29,029-feet-high Mount Everest in Nepal.

Bari found his calling in the woods of northern Minnesota last fall.

“I started rock climbing up in Duluth in the summer and fall of 2008,” the St. Louis Park, Minn., native said. “And really, I instantly fell in love with rock climbing.”

A trudging expedition along the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States soon followed.

“I really enjoyed the terrain, the angles that you take going up and down hills, especially wearing a pack,” Bari said.

Bari and his friends began to talk about taking a rock-climbing trip, but a different kind of challenge interrupted his plans: a deployment to Iraq.

Bari’s pre-deployment training brought him to Fort Lewis, Wash., where the looming, white specter of 14,411-feet-high Mount Rainier sat teasingly on the horizon.

“The first time I saw Mount Rainier, I had that instant when I was like: 'Wow, I’d really like to see what it’s like on top of that thing,’” Bari said.

While at Fort Lewis, Bari immersed himself in books on mountaineering and its myriad dangers: frigid cold, glaciers, crevasses, high-altitude sickness and falling. It wasn’t until Bari’s four-day pass that he was able to attempt to climb the mountain. Because of inclement weather, he only was able to reach 8,000 feet up Mount Ranier. Nevertheless, he remained undeterred for future challenges.

Bari continues to train for future mountain-climbing expeditions while deployed in Iraq by running 35 to 45 miles a week.

Leg strength, he said, is “the power that’s going to get you up the mountain.”

Once his Iraq deployment ends, Bari plans to climb Pikes Peak located near Colorado Springs, Colo. Pikes Peak, which tops off near 14,115 feet, is Bari’s warm-up exercise prior to scaling 14,505-feet-high Mount Whitney in California.

After climbing Mount Whitney this summer, Bari said he plans to tackle Alaska’s 20,320-feet-high Mount McKinley in the summer of 2011, where he can gain experience working with ropes amid ice and glaciers.

Scaling Mount McKinley “will be the last major training piece before making an attempt at Everest,” Bari pointed out.

Ever since New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay first scaled Everest’s craggy summit in May 1953, more than 2,700 adventurers have crawled their way up the peak. The mountain is so high, and the trail is so long, that to climb straight through is both foolhardy and dangerous.

“You don’t start right at the base camp and go straight to the top,” Bari explained. “You go up a little bit, set up a camp and get used to that elevation.”

While Bari currently has “absolutely zero” mountain-climbing experience, he noted that he also lacked any serious long-distance running experience before participating in his first 26-mile marathon.

Bari has “kinda lost track” of how many marathons he has run since his first, although he estimates the total to be somewhere close to 20.

Bari hopes that his mountain-climbing plans blossom similarly.

And while there are many things Bari cannot control over the next two years during his mountain-climbing quests, his plan appears to be rock-solid: start at the bottom, and through hard work and effort and sweat, climb your way to the top.

(Army Pfc. J. Princeville Lawrence serves with the 34th Infantry Division public affairs office.)

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Multinational Corps Iraq

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