Tuesday, Sep 17, 2013
At Yosemite National Park, 30 disabled United States military veterans climbed several of the park’s iconic peaks, including Half Dome and El Capitan. Climbers reached the summits of Half Dome and El Capitan on Wednesday, September 11th. Paradox Sports, a nonprofit organization with an emphasis on adaptive sports, brought the group to Yosemite for this multi-day event, designed to honor all veterans and celebrate the achievements of people with disabilities.
Yosemite National Park has an active Special Emphasis Program for veterans of the armed services. The park currently employs approximately 105 veterans, representing all divisions within the park. The program is a part of the Equal Opportunity Committee.
“The program is designed to educate, recruit, and employ veterans of the armed services in Yosemite National Park. We provide educational tools, help veterans obtain their benefits, and strive to provide overall guidance to the park’s veterans,” stated Dave Henderson, a park ranger, disabled U.S. Army veteran, and the Special Emphasis Program manager.
Among the climbs completed by the group, a team of three made the first all-veteran ascent of El Capitan. Other climbing routes included the East Buttress and Zodiac routes on El Capitan and the Snake Dike Route up to the summit of Half Dome.
Several Yosemite National Park rangers accompanied the climbing groups. Group leaders included Timmy O’Neill, a professional climber and Executive Director of Paradox Sports and Heidi Wirtz, a professional climber.
Several Yosemite National Park employees and veterans joined the climbers for a commemorative event in Yosemite Valley the same morning. Media coverage was extensive, including several stories on NPR.