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Public Affairs : Brothers choose adventure during holiday break

Brothers choose adventure during holiday break

By Kathy Eastwood
Staff Writer

Holiday leave is generally a time when cadets look forward to spending time with family and friends.

Class of 2014 Cadet William Carson and Class of 2016 Cadet John Carson had something a little different in mind. The two brothers opted instead of visiting family to climb a mountain in New Hampshire, just for the sake of the adventure.

“We found that plane tickets home to Louisiana were way over-priced for a four-day holiday, but we still wanted to do something exciting with our time off,” William said. “We chose to spend Thanksgiving Day with Maj. Riley Post (sociology instructor) and his wonderful family who graciously invited us for Thanksgiving dinner. His wife made, undoubtedly, the best apple pie I have ever had.”

William said he had long desired to climb Mount Washington in New Hampshire and the ability to reach the summit with his brother John made the experience even more rewarding.

The two do not have much climbing experience, but since William was a plebe he has been climbing on weekends at the PI (poison ivy) wall used by the Rock Climbing Team and in the Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center.

They had practiced climbing, but they didn’t need the technical climbing skills because it was more of a long, strenuous hike. The two are also members of the West Point Karate Team and have qualified for nationals next semester.

William borrowed a truck the day before Thanksgiving leave and they drove seven hours to the mountain.

“When we arrived, we picked up maps of Mount Washington and reconfirmed the route we hoped to take,” he said. “That night we slept in our base layers and woke the next morning with eager anticipation of the climb. When we stepped outside, we found that it was already snowing, but we drove about an hour until we reached the check-in station at the head of Tuckerman’s Trail.”

The brothers wrote down the route they intended to use and began preparing their gear. Their packs included sleeping bags, climbing rope, harnesses, climbing ice axes, crampons, multiple layers of clothing and a pair of plastic expedition boots. They felt they were well prepared.

“We began our hike at nine in the morning and quickly found that we were wearing too many layers,” William said. “It is crucial not to overheat because at higher elevations, sweat will chill and can lead to hypothermia. We conducted most of the hike in just our base layers, a pair of snow pants and a sweatshirt. That was it, until we entered the Alpine Zone.”

They began their hike of two miles to the base of Mount Washington and continued onto the Lion Head Trail.

“This trail becomes much steeper requiring some actual basic climbing and teamwork,” he said. “This steep section was about a mile in length and was probably the most difficult part of the trip because the side of the mountain was at about a 75-degree slope for most of the way.”

They managed to push through it, often reaching back to lend a helping hand to each other. The trail protected them from the winds coming from the West as the whole trail approached from the East and was a crucial aspect they had actually considered in their planning.

When they reached the Alpine Zone, the hike became less steep, but it was covered with snow and ice.

“It was then the hoses to our CamelBaks froze and we were forced to drink directly from the cap,” William said. “With fear of the CamelBaks freezing entirely, we frequently hit each other’s CamelBaks to keep ice from forming too quickly.”
Class of 2014 Cadet William Carson and Class of 2016 Cadet John Carson had an interesting adventure during their Thanksgiving leave and the brothers look forward to more leisure over the Christmas break. Courtesy Photos

Class of 2014 Cadet William Carson and Class of 2016 Cadet John Carson had something a little different in mind. The two brothers opted instead of visiting family to climb a mountain in New Hampshire, just for the sake of the adventure.

It was in the Alpine Zone the two began to face a strong wind from the West and put their balaclavas (a type of face mask) and goggles on and continued forward.

“It was here in the Alpine Zone that we looked down upon the amazing mountains around us, before entering into the clouded summit,” he said.

William said the last mile through the Alpine Zone was the hardest because by then, they were exhausted after carrying probably 30 pounds of gear with them and were unable to see the summit.

“We reached the summit at about two in the afternoon and waited for a short time hoping that another group would reach us,” he said. “Eventually, another team of two arrived and took our picture for us. We wanted to take more pictures, but our batteries died from the cold.”

The cadets had about three hours of daylight left to descend the mountain and the weather was getting worse. There was almost no visibility at the summit and they were only able to see 20-feet clearly in front of them.

“We began a rapid descent, taking no breaks, but being careful not to make a wrong step while in the cloud,” he said. “We brought flashlights and extra batteries, but we had no desire to descend using them as we needed both our hands for a portion of the descent.”

They made it to the base without using flashlights, as there was still a little light left and they made good time, despite occasional slips on patches of ice.

“The trip was an absolute success and one of those memories that my brother and I will cherish for years to come,” William said. “I was glad that John, who is a plebe in F-4 Company, was able to get out and do something exciting away from West Point. As for myself, I was proud to have carried the A-3 Company flag to the summit with me. One of my favorite quotes by Abraham Lincoln is ‘In the end it is not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.’”

The Carson brothers said they will return home to visit friends and family during the Christmas break and are hoping for enough time to go hunting and camping.

“I look with eagerness toward the future, at the adventures my brother and I will undertake both in the Army and outside of it,” he said.