An invitation to join the Glacier National Park Climate Reconnaissance Team
I deployed to Iraq in 2006. When I came home in 2007, civilian life was disorienting, if not downright weird. Many Americans didn’t even seem to know that we were fighting two different wars, thousands of miles away from each other. I asked myself: what did I go and fight for? Was it so that I could drive through congested traffic to an office complex and interview for a job I never got anyway? Was it to stand in a long line at a TSA security checkpoint? Was it to stumble through suburbia looking for a strip mall that had the one worthwhile store I needed? Is this what I fought for?
Also in 2006, photographer Jim Balog was working on a major story for National Geographic magazine and surveying fast-shrinking glaciers all over the United States and the world. In Montana’s Glacier National Park, he documented half a dozen glaciers that are on pace to disappear as a result of rising temperatures and reduced snowfall by the middle of this century. His work has received a lot of national and international recognition, and was featured in an award-winning film, Chasing Ice, which previewed at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
Jim and I met each other in the spring of 2011, right before I joined the Sierra Club. We began discussing what we had in common. We discovered that his work on the changing landscape of North America fits together well with my work to assist fellow veterans, service members, and their families,as they try to reintegrate into American life through the grounding effect of being in the outdoors.
Just as importantly, Jim and I believe that military veterans have a unique perspective on what it means to be American, what it means to defend our land, and what it means to preserve what makes America great.
We live in a country that is incredibly beautiful. As service members, we fought for our land, our waterways and our environment as much as we fought for anything else. But most of us haven’t actually seen much of what makes these 50 states so fantastic. We’d like to show you a really amazing part of America the Beautiful and how it has changed since we’ve been at war.
To that end, we’d like to bring a select team of ten veterans to Glacier National Park, which is truly one of America’s crown jewels, on a Climate Reconnaissance expedition from August 9-18, 2012. Those eligible will be veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, or Operation Enduring Freedom; veterans, active duty, National Guard, or Reservists of the US Armed Forces are invited. We will hike into the backcountry, map some fast-disappearing glaciers and climb a major peak along the Continental Divide. The expedition will include a week of remote alpine travel. Jim and Conrad Anker, a world-famous, Montana-based mountaineer will jointly lead the expedition. We will produce a video about the trip and expect that some of it will be nationally televised.
We would like to foster a lively discussion around climate change and America’s natural resources. Whether or not you think climate change is real doesn’t matter. We just want you to come and experience the spectacle of Glacier National Park for yourself.
Many more than the ten participants who will ultimately go to Glacier National Park will be invited to one of the two pre-trip training sessions in Colorado (June) or Virginia (early July). Final trip rosters for the Glacier group will be decided no later than July 11th.
May 1: Applications Due
May 15: Pre-Expedition Team Selected
June TBD, Colorado: Training #1
June / July TBD, Virginia: Training #2
July 15: Final Team Selected
August 9: Arrive in Montana
August 11-18: Expedition
Additional trip information:
Cost of travel to the June/July training sessions are up to participants to cover. If you cannot make it to the training due to financial concerns, we will work with you to make attendance possible anyway. (Limited travel scholarships are available. The actual on-the-ground costs of the training sessions will be covered by the Sierra Club’s partnership with Veterans Expeditions. The Sierra Club will pay for subsequent travel to Glacier National Park, as well as food and technical mountaineering gear. We are presently seeking sponsorships to cover the cost of tents, sleeping bags, and even some personal gear.
Who can apply:
Veterans, active duty, reservists, National and Air National Guard who have deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom, or other duties in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia since 2001. Veterans with physical or mental disabilities are encouraged to apply. Active duty, reservist, and National and Air National Guard are encouraged to apply
The terrain will be remote and rugged, but we will not be doing anything technical beyond hiking on glaciers and scrambling on steep rocks. We will train you in the appropriate skills so that you can enjoy the mountains as much as possible.
If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch by leaving a comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos are courtesy of, and copy righted to Jim Balog.
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"