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On Oct 3rd, 2011, six US Air Force members proudly flew the USAF and American flags from the summit of Australia's highest peak, Mt. Kosciuszko. Greeted by bright sunshine and fresh snow, the team used snowshoes and backcountry skis to reach the summit. As a special addition to this climb, six Australian military members joined the trip. Five of them made it to the top with the USAF 7 Summits Challenge team, marking our first multinational climb!
It was a fun and unique trip 'Down Under'. Team members were able to fit in visits to Sydney and the capital, Canberra. In Canberra, they paid tribute to Australian military members at a dusk memorial ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial. Below is a photo of two team members in front of the Australian-American Memorial, signifying Australian gratitude for America's help during WWII.
The small mountain village of Thredbo was used for base camp. Upon arrival, the team found temps to be in the 40s and raining. However, the temps were cold enough that it was snowing heavily on the upper portion of the mountains. The following two days, some team members skied in the fresh October snow. What luck to arrive just in time to enjoy a spring snow. With visibility ranging between 10 and 300ft, there was worry the poor weather could hamper the push to the summit. But on the morning of the climb, the clouds and low visibility were replaced by bright sun and fresh snow.
On the summit, American team members gathered for pushups in honor of Airmen who have died in the line of duty since 9/11. After 50 of them, the team began its descent. Two team members attached the American and USAF flags to their backpacks and descended on telemark skis. The whoops of joy from the skiers and their bright flags flying overhead made it clear to all below that the USAF 7 Summits team had successfully reached their sixth peak!
Upon reaching the bottom, the Americans and Aussies kicked off their boots and winter gear and celebrated. Sitting outside in the sunshine, enjoying drinks and snacks, they shared stories- of their respective nations, their families, time spent in combat zones, and about the trip up the summit. It was a great way to form bonds between military members and to realize how much alike people from both nations are. The Australians were excellent hosts and the trip could not have gone better!