On June 10, 2012, Leonidas International teamed up with Warfighter Sports (part of Disabled Sports USA) to send a team of five wounded warriors (Team Warfighter Sports) to attempt the summit of Alaska’s Mt. McKinley (aka, Denali).  At 20,320’ Denali is the highest mountain in North America.  While weather prevented multiple attempts to the summit, the team ultimately reached 15,500’ and was very successful in raising awareness of the abilities of our nation’s wounded warriors.

Team Warfighter Sports included two double leg amputees, two single above knee amputees and one wounded warrior with severe damage to the hip and legs.  The team also included warriors from two generations (the oldest is 64 and youngest is 29) and three wars, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Denali Challenge began just after Memorial Day to honor the sacrifices of America’s heroes and ended one month later right before Independence Day, a day that celebrates the freedoms both past and current service members have won.


Planned Itinerary – West Buttress Route


5 Wounded Warriors. 4 Good Legs. 3 Wars. 2 Generations. 1 Mountain.

Facts about Denali

•   It’s tall – at 20,320 feet, it’s the highest point in North America and one of the Seven Summits

•   It’s cold – one of the coldest mountains on earth with temperatures reaching as low as 40 F below zero

•   It’s windy – wind speeds on the upper mountain can reach over 150mph

•   It has obstacles – glaciers, separated by razor edge ridges and massive granite rock can present challenges


Facts about the Denali Team

•   Seeking to reignite their competitive, athletic spirit that military service members possess and motivate those recently injured as to what is possible

•   Includes severely wounded soldiers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam

•   Disabilities sustained in war include single and multiple leg amputees, nerve and bone damage, traumatic brain injury

•   6 months of intensive training, including mountains in Colorado and Bataan Memorial Death March, a 26.2 mile, one day hike in the desert of southern New Mexico

•   Mountain Trip, an experienced guide group, will lead the challenge




Army Capt. Jesse Acosta (Ret.)  Founder of Leonidas International.  Severely wounded by an IED in Iraq. Scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2011 and twice completed a 100-mile bicycle ride and the Capital of Texas Triathlon.






Army Sgt. Kirk M. Bauer, JD (Ret.)  As disabled Vietnam veteran (left above knee amputee) and the Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA for the past 29 years. At age 64, Bauer still leads an active sports life participating with wounded warriors, youth and others in skiing, biking, hiking, golf and other sports.  In 2010, he led a team of all amputee veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on a successful summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.




Marine Capt. David Borden (Active Duty)  After losing his leg above the knee to a suicide bomb in Iraq in 2008, Captain Borden returned to combat in Afghanistan in 2011. Borden has golfed, skied and run the Army Ten Miler through Disabled Sports USA’s military program.







Army Sgt. Neil Duncan (Ret.)  Severely wounded in Afghanistan in 2005 by an improvised explosive device resulting in amputation of both legs. Scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2010 alongside Kirk Bauer and continues to stay active in sports.






Army Cpl. Steve Martin (Ret.)  Served in the Army and Army National Guard for 8 years including assignment in Korea. Hit by an IED while on operations as a State Department contractor, with Joint US Forces Provincial Mentoring Team in  Afghanistan. Martin lost both legs below the knees as a result of his injuries. After his amputations, he completed the Bataan Memorial Death March in 2011, a 26 mile marchin White Sands, NM. Steve golfs, bikes, swims and runs and has competed in triathlons.





Tentative Itinerary – West Buttress Route

•   Day 1: Meeting Day in Anchorage, AK (Start Date)

•   Day 2: Fly to Base Camp in Kahiltna Glacier 7,200’

•   Day 3: Move to Camp 3 at 7,800’ (2377m)

•   Day 4: Carry to Kahiltna Pass

•   Day 5: Move to Camp 2 at 11,200’ (3415m)

•   Day 6: Back-carry day

•   Day 7: Carry to 13,500’ (4115m)

•   Day 8: Move to Camp 3 at 14,200’ (4330m)

•   Day 9: Back-carry day

•   Day 10: Carry to 16,400’ (5000m)

•   Day 11: Rest/Acclimatization day

•   Day 12: Move to High Camp at 17,200’ (5244m)

•   Day 13: Rest day

•   Day 14: Summit Day! at 20,320’ (6194m)

•   Day 15: First descent day

•   Day 16: Descent and fly to Talkeetna

•   Day 17-23: Contingency days

•   Day 24: Fly home


Press coverage

Weather not limitations end Mount McKinley climb – Read the AP Article here

Weather suspends and then ends Team’s journey – Read the Press Release here

Wounded Warriors making progress in “Denali Challenge” – Watch CNN’s followup interview here

Watch the Warfighter Sports team interview with CNN here

Watch Jesse and Kirk on CBS This Morning here

Read about the team’s efforts in The Huffington Post here

Watch Jesse describe the event and give a shout out to Warfighter Sports on Fox News here



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