Operation High Altitude 2021 | June 6 – 11, 2021

“The amount of information I got was life changing. Extremely helpful. Sometimes I feel scared of getting out of the military while also feeling scared of staying in. Just talking to all of the other participants was so helpful.”

– 2021 program participant

DSES held Operation High Altitude earlier this month, our first program for military athletes and veterans this year. Active duty and veteran service members pursued mountain biking, hiking, boating, fishing and rock climbing while camping along beautiful McGee Creek as part of a pilot program for the National Wounded Warrior Center. Participants spent 60% of their time challenging themselves through adaptive recreation, and 40% of their time in presentations and discussions geared toward goal setting for successful transitions. Participants shared some of what they learned from the goal setting discussions, including the understanding that setting a goal doesn’t always give you an answer, but it provides a process and method to formalize goals for yourself.

The camp was made up of eight athletes, two mentors and seven presenters, not to mention the many fantastic volunteers, donors, and outfitters. We felt that the week was a great success, especially since several participants expressed interest in coming back for family R&R, internships, or giving back through support of the NWWC programs.

The week began mountain biking at Shady Rest park, where program participants shared that being on trails was exciting and rewarding. Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) held an informative demonstration Monday afternoon, followed by a yoga session with Laura Stark.

Multiple cyclists ride mountain bikes in a line.

DSES Operations Director Cara Leonard (center) leading military participants in a bike ride at Shady Rest Park. Photo: Peter Markle.

A group of people sit cross legged and sprawl out on green grass.

Camp participants at McGee Campground during a yoga session. Photo: Maggie Palchak.










With high winds sweeping into the Eastern Sierra on Tuesday, June 8, we decided to redirect our paddle-boarding day to a fun hike and scenic pontoon boat ride on Convict Lake. On Tuesday afternoon, participants geared up for Wednesday’s fishing day on Crowley Lake by doing fishing demos at Shady Rest Park with Eastern Sierra Fly-Fishing Guides. They then used those skills to practice on McGee’s Trout Ponds that evening. Participants felt that the fly fishing experience was very enjoyable and even stress reducing.

A boat with three individuals wait on top a glassy blue body of water. A wide mountain in across from them in the background of the image.

Camp participants fish on Crowley Lake. Photo: DSES.

Hikers walk along a trail with a blue lake at the bottom left of the image and a towering mountain above them.

Participants, DSES staff, and volunteers during an afternoon hike at Convict Lake. Photo: Marc Molano.

A man wearing a yellow shirt and hat holds a fishing pole and his line is being pulled. Across from him there are leafy green branches and a mountain in the distance.

Camp participant, Julius, with a fish on his line at McGee Creek’s Trout Pond. Photo: Marc Molano.




















Wednesday June 9th consisted of a ton fishing! Camp participants fished at Crowley Lake to prepare for the fish bake in the evening.

On Thursday, June 10th, everyone headed to June Lake for a half-day of rock climbing under the expert guidance of Sierra Mountain Guides. We learned that participants were impacted by this activity in a positive way, sharing that being uncomfortable can be helpful for growth, and trust helps gain confidence back.

“While watching participants overcome fear, learn to trust the gear, belay persons, and guides, I perceived an almost palpable feeling of empowerment and accomplishments of the participants. While all of the events offered value, rock climbing was a great capstone event.”
-DSES Advisory Council member and OHA Mentor John Snelson
A rock climber is hardly visible climbing up a ginormous granite rock. A pine tree to the right of the image shades most of the rock, and two climbing ropes are visible hanging down the rock.

Participant, Josh, climbs up a rock near June Lake. Photo: Marc Molano.













Thursday night’s Hootenanny kicked off with Fiddlin’ Pete and great food. Participants, staff, and volunteers had the opportunity to eat, relax, and listen to music. What a wonderful way to end the week.

Three men are pictured standing on a stage made of rocks. The man on the left wears a cowyboy hat and plays the banjo while singing into a microphone. The man in the middle also sings into a microphone, and the man on the right plays the guitar.

Fiddlin’ Pete and band performing at Thursday night’s Hootenanny. Photo: Amanda Carlson.











THANK YOU! We want to give a huge shoutout the many volunteers, outfitters, and donors who contributed to the success of the program:

NWWC Program Planning Committee
Stephen Mount
John Snelson
Todd, April, and Luxor Wolfe
DSES Volunteer Kitchen Crew
DSES Volunteers
McGee Creek RV Park and Campground
Mammoth Lakes Fire Department
Mammoth Lakes Firefighter Foundation
Long Valley Fire Department
Laura Stark
Convict Lake Resort
Mammoth Kayaks and Paddleboards
Andy Gasper
Crowley Lake Fish Camp
Carissa Tourtelot
Eastern Sierra Fly-Fishing Guides
Nick Popaditch
Sierra Mountain Guides
Paul Pintek
Jim Takayesu
Pino Pies
Dan Molnar
Eastern Sierra Transit Authority
Epic Cafe
Footloose Sports
Grocery Outlet
Mammoth Disposal
Mono County Tourism
Pita Pit Mammoth
Rolling Chef 395
Stellar Brew
The Breakfast Club
Sue Ebersold
The Town of Mammoth Lakes
Visit Mammoth
Rancho Sante Fe Foundation
Fiddlin’ Pete and Friends
The Garcia Family
Clif Bar & Company
Peter Markle
Get Outdoors 365
James M. and Carol F. Krueger Charitable Fund

Operation Mountain Freedom brings Wounded Warriors to Mammoth Mountain January 13-17, 2020

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES), in partnership with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the Inyo National Forest Service will welcome more than 50 active and veteran military personnel and their families.  Participants have a myriad of disabilities, including Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Major Depressive Disorder, and amputations.

Beginning with a welcome dinner hosted by Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, the community of Mammoth Lakes will gather together to support our wounded warriors for a week of therapeutic recreation as part of Operation Mountain Freedom.

This event, which has been growing each year since 2007, was created in an effort to help our wounded warriors reintegrate into civilian life within the beauty, safety, and joy of the Sierra Nevada mountains. New this year, athletes will participate in sessions geared toward assimilating to civilian life including goal setting, successful transition and caregiver support.

Like all of DSES’s programs for military athletes, Operation Mountain Freedom often changes the lives of participants. For example, Julius, a retired Army Ranger who first came to Operation Mountain Freedom in 2016 learned to Alpine and Nordic ski as part of the program. Julius has since returned to several events to improve his skills and now competes across the country in Nordic and biathlon races. He and his fiancée, Katie, continue to support the program in many capacities like fundraising and mentoring both military and civilian athletes new to the world of adaptive sports. Julius and Katie are now so entwined in the DSES family that they are making the organization as part of their wedding celebrations which include a ceremony at the summit of Mammoth Mountain coinciding with Operation Mountain Freedom.

On Thursday, January 16, the Mammoth Lakes community is invited to come together to recognize all participants with a ceremonial Arch of Honor at 8:45am at the Gondola Building at Main Lodge.

Operation Mountain Freedom is supported by generous grants and contributions from The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), National Football League (NFL), Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA), Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, and Steve and Dana Garcia.

For a complete schedule of events and more information about Operation Mountain Freedom, please contact Amanda Carlson at 760.934.0791 or email acarlson@disabledsportseasternsierra.org.