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Climber profile: Spc. Jake Pendergist

By Staff Sgt. Trish McMurphy

U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs

  Spc. Jake Pendergist
  Spc. Jacob Pendergrist poses with the peak of Mount McKinley looming in the background. (Army photo/John Pennell)

Many of today's military joined because of the way they were raised. Their fathers, mothers, grandfathers, aunts or uncles served and it inspired them to follow in their footsteps.


This is the reason Spc. Jake Pendergist, an infantryman with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, said he decided to join the Army.

"It was kind of like a family thing to do," Pendergist said. "It started with my great grandfather, he served in the Army, an infantryman, and my grandfather was the same thing.


"My father was in the Navy as well as my mother," he added.


Pendergist, a Clearwater, Fla., native spent three years in Alaska minus a one-year deployment to Afghanistan, and said he had some cold-weather training in the past, but nothing like his most recent experience.


This month Pendergist, along with seven Soldiers from the Northern Warfare Training Center and 1/25th SBCT, and a NWTC civilian guide, will attempt to summit the tallest mountain in North America – Mount McKinley.


"This is the first mountain training I have ever had," Pendergist said.


He said he was asked by his unit to go with the members of the NWTC and represent them on the mountain.


"My first sergeant came down and asked me if I wanted to climb McKinley and I couldn't pass it up. I just jumped right to it," he said.


"It's good training," he added. "Every day you learn something new that you don't learn at your basic line unit."


Pendergist and the other 1/25 SCBT Soldiers had to learn technical skills in mountaineering, cold-weather survival, and basic skills like skiing in a short amount of time to meet the team's timeline.


"[The NWTC instructors told us] 'we have a short amount of time - this is all being condensed and it's going to come quick fast and in a hurry'", Pendergist said.


"Learning all the basic survival needs, learning all the gear and the knots; learning the rope and your limits - how far you can push yourself - we didn't shy away from it," Pendergist said. "Once we started training it was all repletion and that really got ahold of us."


"I'd say the hardest part was just getting used to the cold, because we could be climbing for 21 days, constantly in the cold," Pendergist said.


"There are no heated shelters, so knowing what your body can handle and can't is probably the hardest thing to get ahold of," he said.


"I've been working out a lot and running to prepare myself and practicing the technical stuff with the NWTC guys so I will be ready in case something bad happens," he said.


"I've heard it's really hard and I want to see how I do," Pendergist said. "I want to test myself."


For some, reaching the summit of the continent's tallest peak is a once-in-a-lifetime quest just to say they did it.

Pendergist said he did it for the challenge and to test himself.

"I want to reach the top of North America," Pendergist said. "Go big, or go home."



Back to NWTC climber profiles.