Defense: Airmen Climbing the ‘Seven Summits’ Highlight Mental Resilience

When Air Force Lt. Col. Rob Marshall starts to summit Alaska’s Denali over Memorial Day weekend, he’s expecting a range of conditions: hot sun on the mountain’s lower half, cool temperatures toward the top, and one or two storms that include high winds, frigid temps and heavy snowfall — typical weather for this time of year.

Washington, May 26, 2021.- When he descends the peak, he’s hoping it’ll be as the first U.S. service member to complete the Seven Summits Challenge — reaching the top of the seven tallest mountains on each continent.

Marshall won’t be summiting North America’s tallest peak alone. Four others — Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Uberuaga, Air Force Maj. Marshal Klitzke and veterans Mark Schaffeld and Wesley Morgan — will join him in climbing all 20,310 feet of Denali (formerly Mount McKinley).

None of the men is a spring chicken — the youngest is 37 — but they’re experienced mountaineers who are ready to prove what they’re doing is about so much more than age and fitness. Each man has risen above mental, physical and social setbacks to get to this point. Their goal: to prove that connecting with Mother Nature fosters resilience in injured service members, post-traumatic stress sufferers and others who have experienced combat.

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