In Edelweiss Raid, competition is seriously steep

Sgt. 1st Class Tim McLaughlin, instructor, U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School, Vermont Army National Guard, checks the team below him as he ascends a technical ridge during the 2023 Edelweiss Raid, March 2, 2023. The Raid is a tactical competition and requires that the squad remains together for the duration of the two-day event or risk disqualification. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Max Archambault)

How tough is the Edelweiss Raid?

When a U.S. team competed in the international military mountaineering contest for the first time in 2019,  it made history as the first team ever to finish the competition on its inaugural attempt, placing 13th out of 23 teams.

In two days, teams cover 40 kilometers (24.85 miles) of rugged Austrian Alps terrain with up to 14,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, completing various military tasks at 12 stations in the process. They carry a litter with their equipment — both for challenges and in case of real casualty situations.

The 2023 U.S. Army Edelweiss Raid Team poses for a photo prior to the start of the 2023 competition, Feb. 28, 2023, Training Area Lizum, Innsbruck, Austria. The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) led a team of 16 Soldiers to a 10th and 18th place finish out of a field of 22 teams in 2023. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Max Archambault

U.S. National Guard soldiers — most from Vermont, home of the Army Mountain Warfare School and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) — returned to Austria earlier this year to compete in the biennial event. This time, the 16-member U.S. team competed in two groups. Both finished; one cracked the top 10.

“We all pretty much call it Type 2 Fun,” Connecticut National Guard Capt. Scott Stone, one of the U.S. competitors, said. “Which is basically … not ‘Ha ha, we’re all having a good time’ fun, but it’s one of things that once you’re done with it, it’s a really awesome experience.”