San Ramon Valley High grad Taylor Stanton traversed treacherous trails from dawn till dusk but the feat was nothing compared to the work his twin brother is doing, he said. Stanton's brother, James, is currently on tour in Afghanistan serving in the Army.
"We both graduated in 2008, James went the military route and is in Kandahar, Afghanistan," the 22-year-old said. "It's been a rough time... it's hard to convey how much I appreciate what he's doing so I wanted to to do something particularly challenging to show this isn't nearly as challenging as what you're doing but I'm doing this to show respect for you."
An avid climber, backpacker and hiker, Stanton free-climbed four peaks in Carson Pass and raised the American flag on each to show support for servicemen and James, specifically. Described as a "mini Yosemite" Carson Pass is located just south of Lake Tahoe and was chosen for the unusual amount of peaks within a small radius and its backwoods, unaltered wilderness feel.
Beginning at 4 a.m. on a September morning, Stanton climbed Red Lakes Peaks, The Sisters, Round Top and Elephants Back, which range from 9,585 feet to over 10,300 feet in elevation. Using only rented snowshoes and his roommate to keep watch, Stanton battled deep snow and ice, freezing conditions, as well as winds exceeding 30 miles per hour to climb each peak.
"Those factors made the expedition more hazardous, but it was worth it to raise the flag to show my support for the troops," the UC Davis grad added.
Stanton took photos and video of his climb but kept the event quiet in order to surprise his brother. The two communicate primarily on Facebook and Skype and during a break from combat, Stanton sent his brother pictures from the climb.
"The response was pretty surprising, he was just impressed. He appreciated it which made me really happy," Stanton said. "It resonated with James and with people around here, and even got response from Sylvester Stalone on Facebook."
James is due back from Afghanistan in March and, in the meantime, Stanton interns at Congressman Tom McClintock's (R-Granite Bay) office in public affairs. Stanton chose the congressman because of his support for troops and veterans.
"A lot of people deploy and come back and are not better for it," Stanton said. "I feel like, in our country in general, a fair amount of people get lost in politics and forget about the (service members) that are actually out there."