Kyle Harper was engaged to former Ranger medic (and vet of the combat jump on Mullah Omar’s hideout in 2001) Michael Hullender, an engagement that ended. like so many hopes and dreams, in the flash of an IED in 2007. Now she works full-time helping other survivors: fiancées like herself, widows and orphans. To raise awareness, and not incidentally money, for her program, she’s climbing Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak.
“She’s up there with a 40-, 50-pound pack on her back and her blood oxygen level is probably going to drop to about 70 percent,” said Jim Harper [Kyle’s dad, of Eliot, ME]. People in hospitals receive oxygen when their blood oxygen levels is at or below 92 percent. “So this is not only going to be a mental challenge, this is going to be a huge physical challenge.”
Kyle Harper works for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, an organization that provides support and activities for families of service men and women who have died. She is making the climb in support of TAPS and with members of Wounded Warriors Ascent, an organization that provides mountain climbing expeditions for wounded veterans.
Harper became a volunteer with TAPS not long after her fiance, Army Sgt. Michael Hullender, a medic, was killed by an improvised explosive device while rushing to care for casualties. Now, she works in Seattle, Wash., as events coordinator for the organization.
Her father said Harper organizes excursions for families and widows like skydives, cage diving with sharks and even stints at circus school.
“She’s always telling people you can go outside your comfort level of life, push past where you are, and be something different,” he said.
When she told her parents she was going to climb a 23,000-foot mountain, Jim Harper admitted to being a little nervous. “But she’s a strong person and in good hands,” he said of his 31-year-old daughter.
To get ready for the ascent, Harper worked with a trainer on leg exercises, ran longer and longer on a regular basis, went hiking and “always had a pack on her back with weights. She carried it everywhere.”
Having tackled a couple of the 20k+ peaks of the Andes (and not always successfully), we can say without a doubt that she’s got a hell of an experience ahead of her. But if the weather cooperates — always a dice throw on mountains that are, after all, in the stratosphere — she should be able to summit.
She’s raised about $3k in sponsorship at this writing. You can help at the link, if you can or want to help. (We have to talk to our money guy today to see what we can do for some of these good causes we keep finding, without eating the seed corn). From the website, TAPS looks like a decent outfit. It has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, also.