Replacing the Darkness Along Iraq’s Sakran Range

I kicked with the toe of my crampon, swinging my ice axe into the hard-packed snow. It brought me one step closer to the summit of Halgurd Mountain, which, at 11,834 feet, is the second-tallest peak in Iraq. Above me, Stacy Bare moved his 6-foot, 7-inch frame a few feet higher; below followed the third member of our team, Matt Griffin.

I took another step and looked behind us. I could no longer see our base camp, from which we’d skinned in the dark hours of the morning. I could see the end of our skin track some 500 feet below, where we’d put skis on our packs. It was steeper than I’d imagined, and I decided it was better to look up than down. I leaned my weight into the mountain and took another step. We still had another 500 feet to go.

This wasn’t the first time any of us had been to the country—all three of us are U.S. Army veterans who fought in the Iraq War. And while all three of us were crazy enough to return of our own volition this past April, I blamed Stacy for my current icy perch along the Iranian border. He had called me less than a month previous, inviting me to return as part of his project, Adventure Not War. The organization takes soldiers back to countries in which they fought to undertake humanitarian work and adventure travel…

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