Trail Notes: Leadville, Colorado

10th Mountain Division Hut

On the trail going upward to Homestead Peak outside of Leadville, Colorado, is the Tenth Mountain Division Hut–named in memory of the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who trained at nearby Camp Hale in the 1940s in preparation for alpine warfare in World War II.  My Outward Bound class had passed by it as we headed up toward the peak, and on our way back, we were invited in by some retired  Park Service guys who had been skiing circles around us as we plodded in snowshoes up and down the trail.  It was great to sit down in a little piece of civilization, have a hot cup of tea, and warm up next to the wood stove–especially after a night of camping out when it had dropped down to 15 degrees below zero.

While we were warming up, I perused a book on 10th Mountain history (I’d served 3 years of active duty in 10th Mountain at Fort Drum, NY, from 2004 to 2007) but had never been this close to my division’s WWII roots.  It was really something to be out in the terrain that my forebears had trained in before they shipped off to the Apennine mountains of northern Italy, where they then faced the specialized German alpine troops at Riva Ridge and Mt Belvedere, then pushed on into Po Valley and Lake Garda–defeating multiple divisions of German infantry in 1945.  Mountaineering skills were essential to 10th Mountain’s success, and their supply lines were provided by Quartermasters known as “Muleskinners” who led in trains of pack mules loaded down with vital supplies.  After the war, 10th Mountain veterans returned to their old training grounds to open up ski schools and recreational resorts at Vail and Aspen.

This was definitely a point of 10th Mountain pride.  Climb to Glory!

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