Lt. Duane Zitta, Coast Guard 2020 Male Athlete of the Year, ultra-endurance athlete, and Coast Guard Foundation advocate, is planning his next challenge, and it is his most daring to date.
Zitta’s accomplishments are many. He has competed in ultra-endurance events for several years, including marathons, long-distance swims, a brutal trail series, and a self-designed challenge -- “Sea to Stars” -- where he completed a 42-mile trek from the ocean to the peak of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. In 2019, he completed the Ironman World Championship. Collectively, his efforts have raised more than $20,000 to benefit Coast Guard Foundation tragedy assistance programs that help families who suffer the loss of their Coast Guard member.
Zitta’s new duty location in Alaska presents many new opportunities, and he is determined to challenge himself to new heights, quite literally.
This month, he is taking on the Chugach Front Linkup Challenge, which is an extreme endurance and mental test to climb the 12 front-range mountain peaks above Anchorage in one continuous push. There is no set trail, so a climber’s skill at route-finding is the key to making it from one ridgeline to the next.
The event will cover 36 to 45 miles, depending on the route chosen, and involve 18,000 to 21,000 feet of vertical gain. In the 30 years of documented attempts, fewer than 50 people have completed it.
“This will be by far the most difficult thing I have done,” said Zitta. “By design, we will be alone in the mountain range. Alaska weather is very unpredictable, and the mountain range has its own weather patterns and systems. A big part of our planning involves picking the right day and time to launch the expedition.”
What motivates Zitta to take on these challenges?
Coast Guard fallen hero families.
He will fly the Coast Guard flag on every peak in honor of Coast Guard fallen heroes and families, and will carry personal messages from Coast Guard Gold Star families on the journey.
“It’s important for me to represent Coast Guard fallen hero families in every task I take on,” shared Zitta. “The sacrifices they have endured, the challenges they have faced…I want them to know that we honor them and we will always remember.”