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Ptucha (front, second from left) and climbers in the Caucasus

Peace & Light

Friends in High Places

There’s nothing like climbing a mountain to bring people together, according to Fred Ptucha, A65. “When there’s real danger and you’re required to trust the other person,” he says, “it breaks down language and cultural barriers in a magical way.” Ptucha, a Vietnam War veteran and peace activist, cofounded Climbers for Peace in 1997 to strengthen ties between former adversaries: the United States and Russia, as well as his ancestral Ukraine. The organization draws people of goodwill from around the world—as many as seven nationalities on a single climb—to go out and scale the world’s notable peaks. They’ve summited mounts Shasta, Denali, Olympus, Elbrus (in the Caucasus), and many others. The eighth expedition, in summer 2012, will take climbers to the High Tartars of Slovakia. You don’t have to be an Edmund Hillary type to participate, Ptucha says. “It’s basically high-altitude hiking. Anyone in good health with a sense of adventure and a love of the outdoors can join us.”

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