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In Edelweiss Raid, the Competition Is Seriously Steep

A soldier tosses one end of a rope off a mountain ledge as others stand nearby.
Rappel Ready
U.S. soldiers conduct rappel training on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier in Austria before the 2023 Edelweiss Raid, Feb. 24, 2023. Teams must be proficient at creating snow anchors out of skis for the rappelling and crevasse rescue portions of the competition.
Photo By: Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Max Archambault
VIRIN: 230224-Z-A3552-765V
A soldier carrying skis attached to a backpack rappels on a rocky mountain face.
Swell Rappel
Army Sgt. Hunter Johnson, a U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School instructor, rappels during training for the Edelweiss Raid at Training Area Lizum in Innsbruck, Austria, Feb. 26, 2023. Competitors must be able to quickly transition from skis to technical mountaineering and back into skis to overcome obstacles on the course.
Photo By: Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Max Archambault
VIRIN: 230226-Z-A3552-533V
Soldiers travel in a line in the distance on skis, creating a powdery trail,
Edelweiss Acclimatization
The U.S. Edelweiss Raid competition team sets a ski track during an acclimatization day in Austria, Feb. 26, 2023, Austria. Elevation is a serious factor during the race, as teams gain up to 14,000 feet of cumulative elevation over a two-day period.
Photo By: Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Max Archambault
VIRIN: 230226-Z-A3552-129V

How tough is the Edelweiss Raid?

When a U.S. team competed in the international military mountaineering contest for the first time in 2019,  it made history as the first team ever to finish the competition on its inaugural attempt, placing 13th out of 23 teams.

In two days, teams cover 40 kilometers (24.85 miles) of rugged Austrian Alps terrain with up to 14,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, completing various military tasks at 12 stations in the process. They carry a litter with their equipment — both for challenges and in case of real casualty situations.

U.S. National Guard soldiers — most from Vermont, home of the Army Mountain Warfare School and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) — returned to Austria earlier this year to compete in the biennial event. This time, the 16-member U.S. team competed in two groups. Both finished; one cracked the top 10.

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"We all pretty much call it Type 2 Fun," Connecticut National Guard Capt. Scott Stone, one of the U.S. competitors, said. "Which is basically ... not 'Ha ha, we're all having a good time' fun, but it's one of things that once you're done with it, it's a really awesome experience."

Soldiers on skis stand for a photo holding a U.S. flag, with snowy peaks in the background.
Before the Raid
The 2023 U.S. Army Edelweiss Raid Team poses for a photo before the start of the 2023 competition at Training Area Lizum in Innsbruck, Austria, Feb. 28, 2023. The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) led a team of 16 soldiers to a 10th and 18th place finish out of a field of 22 teams.
Photo By: Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Max Archambault
VIRIN: 230228-Z-A3552-432

(Includes information from articles by Timothy Koster, Connecticut National Guard Public Affairs Office; and Army Capt. Mikel Arcovitch, Joint Force Headquarters – Vermont National Guard Public Affairs)

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