2 Books on 10th Mountain Division's WWII Training on Rainier
January 7 2004, 10:53 PM
The Last Ridge
Although reams of paper have been devoted to books about the 10th Mountain Division, the following books are perhaps the most definitive and, in many ways, the most personally felt and narrated of any that have gone before.
The authors have sought out knowledgeable veterans of the 10th, and used their cogent memories to describe their difficult training and brief but bloody combat experience. It will be left to their readers to decide which best captures the essence of the 10th Mountain Division.
Jenkins accurately recounts the recruiting of skiers, mountain climbers and other outdoorsmen to the 10th, but in this writer’s view he devotes too much space to their training at Mount Rainier and Camp Hale, as well as the fulsome publicity generated by their colorful ski and climbing activities, in both Hollywood movies and articles in the printed press.
The combat story begins with the dramatic capture by the l0th of Riva Ridge and the Belvedere massif, the origin of the book’s title “The Last Ridge.” Told graphically in veterans’ own words, the narrative brings home the harsh realities of mountain warfare.
Climb to Conquer
From its initial prologue to its final chapter, this retelling of the 10th Mountain Division by Peter Shelton is engaging, amusing and informative. Told almost entirely through the eyes of the men who, 60 years before, had taken part in the formation, training and combat experience of the division, it nonetheless reads like a brisk and believable novel.
Shelton’s descriptions of the training of the division on Mount Rainier in Washington and at Camp Hale in Colorado are interesting and accurate. He recounts the unlikely involvement of Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck in the filming of the division’s first training film, and future ski film impresario John Jay’s creation of the most definitive film and photographic images of the 10th on skis.
For a chapter called “The Homestake Fiasco,” however, the author apparently listened to a somewhat biased set of participants. The February 1943 Homestake maneuver by early units of the 10th, held on the slopes of 13,200-foot Homestake Peak, was the first high-altitude winter exercise ever mounted by the U.S. Army. To describe it as a “fiasco” is to discount completely the maneuver’s real effectiveness. http://www.ellsworthamerican.com/thisweek/01-08-04/ea_news9_01-08-04.html
Visiting the Division's Stomping Grounds At Leadville-(which was off limits during the war
January 18 2004, 9:36 PM
You wouldn't know from a distance that the men carving gracefully through the powder at Ski Cooper are in their late 70s and 80s. On trails winding through dark stands of timberline spruce and fir, they ride their skis as other men drive cars – with skill bordering on nonchalance.
Their body language speaks of joy, too, on top of the skill, as time and the mountain slip beneath their feet and dust-fine snow hangs in the air behind them like a memory.
These men are veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, the Army's only World War II division trained to fight on skis. As young men, college students and boys barely out of high school, they spent the winters of 1942-43 and 1943-44 five miles down the road from Ski Cooper at Camp Hale, Colo., an instant barracks city built to accommodate 14,000 soldiers (and 5,000 artillery-toting mules) in an alpine meadow at 9,250 feet.
Today that meadow has gone back to elk sedge and aspen forest. An occasional foundation pokes up through the grass, and a few interpretive signs along U.S. 24 recall the feverish days when American mountaineers trained to fight Hitler's vaunted mountain troops, his Jaegers.
Ski lessons at what was then called Cooper Hill were taught by a who's who of world champions: Austrian émigré Friedl Pfeifer (who later founded the ski area at Aspen), Walter Prager (a Swiss who also coached the Dartmouth College ski team), jumping world-record holder Torger Tokle and Werner Von Trapp of the singing Von Trapp family.
Californian Howard Koch, one of the handful of 10th Division veterans who still make the pilgrimage back to Cooper every winter, remembers Prager in particular: “He was at another level altogether; he danced down the mountain.”
Koch and Earl Clark of Denver and the others this day do their best Walter Prager imitations and then retire to the 10th Memorial at the base of the mountain to remember their fallen comrades, all 997 of them, most killed in the Italian Apennines.
Ironically, an early thaw in Europe that winter of 1945 meant that the ski troops didn't actually fight on skis. But, thanks in part to their superb conditioning and mountaineers' esprit, they helped drive the Nazi armies in Italy into disarray and eventual surrender in the Alps.
The men bow their heads and sing songs of brotherhood and loss, and then it's off to nearby Leadville for drinks and more singing – marching tunes now and ribald spin-offs like “Ninety Pounds of Rucksack” – at the 1879 Silver Dollar Saloon.
Leadville was off-limits to the GIs training at Hale. A once-grand silver camp down on its Depression-era luck, the busted mine town allowed one ancient profession to flourish, and the Army wanted no part of it.
Today the town, with its stately Victorian main street and blocks of brightly painted miners' bungalows, is coming back, mindful of its rich history and its splendid location at the “top of the Rockies.”
At 10,432 feet above sea level, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States. Its empty, almost Tibetan basin is ringed by 18 of Colorado's 54 “fourteeners” – peaks greater than 14,000 feet elevation. These include the highest, Mount Elbert at 14,443 feet, and one of the most astonishing, 14,005-foot-high Mount of the Holy Cross, which in winter sports a snowy cross down the center of its black-rock east face.
About 125 miles west of Denver, Leadville is the secret heart of a well-known high-elevation playground. Besides Ski Cooper – now a community-owned “small mountain” gem – Leadville is within easy striking distance of Vail and Copper mountains (30 miles north), Keystone (35 miles to the east) and (in summer, once the snowplows bust through the drifts on Independence Pass) 40 miles to Aspen off to the west.
Camp Hale troopers occasionally drove the long way, through Glenwood Springs, to Aspen, for weekends of partying and skiing Roch Run, the only ski trail then cut on Aspen Mountain. Friedl Pfeifer was enchanted by ghost town Aspen; it reminded him of his hometown, St. Anton. He vowed to return after the war, and, despite losing a lung to shrapnel, he did just that, founding the Aspen Skiing Corp. in 1946 and, with thousands of fellow 10th vets around the country, kick-starting the postwar ski boom.
When Howard Koch and those veterans who can still handle the altitude stay in Leadville, they take rooms at the grand old Delaware Hotel. A three-story brick Victorian built in 1886, she still hums with the kind of energy that accompanied the making of the Guggenheim and Tabor fortunes in the mines just outside of town. (Leadville got its name from a silver-bearing carbonate of lead.)
Horace Tabor, the town's first mayor, amassed a fortune in silver and built the Tabor Opera House on Harrison Street, a magnificent 880-seat theater said at the time to be the finest hall between St. Louis and San Francisco. Houdini played the stage there, as did Susan B. Anthony and Oscar Wilde, among others. Now the Tabor anchors Leadville's National Historic Landmark District.
Drive just a couple of blocks from the opera house and the Delaware, up Seventh Street and Stray Horse Gulch, and you come to the Tabors' Matchless Mine. There sits the tiny frame cabin in which Baby Doe Tabor, Horace's beautiful widow, once so fabulously rich, died a pauper, with gunnysacks swaddling her frozen feet, in 1935.
Interpretive signs recount other tales of mining-era splendor and woe along the newly completed 12.5-mile Mineral Belt Trail that circles Leadville. In summer it's a non-motorized hiking and mountain-biking trail. In winter the ski team from nearby Colorado Mountain College sets cross-country track along its undulating length.
In the warm months, dilapidated mine timbers and waste-rock tailings piles (disgorged from hundreds of miles of tunnels) dominate the landscape. Under winter snows, the hills around town heal instantly. You feel only the gentle hiss of skis gliding on the track and perhaps the whispers of energetic 19th-century ghosts who rushed past the stunning scenery for the promise of underground riches.
Some winter visitors come to use Leadville as a base for cross-country skiing on a grander scale. Standing beside the ski-waxing bench at the Columbine Inn & Suites, proprietor Walter Wilczkiewicz tells me that a sizable percentage of his winter guests are backcountry skiers and mountaineers. One group comes from Europe every year to climb and ski the twin giants across the valley, Mount Massive and Mount Elbert.
Others use Leadville as a “place to rest, to shower and take a break” while skiing the 10th Mountain Division Hut and Trail System.
There are 22 huts in the system now, describing a jagged 300-mile-long circle through much of the terrain in which the mountain division trained: from Aspen north around the Holy Cross Wilderness to Vail, then south along the Mosquito Range to Leadville, and west again over the Sawatch Range to Aspen.
Several huts were constructed using funds from veterans' families, and one, the 10th Mountain Division Hut, was underwritten chiefly by ski trooper Bill Bowerman, the Oregon native who started a little shoe company called Nike.
Veteran Fritz Benedict, an Aspen architect after the war, came up with the idea for the trail in the early 1980s. It's an American version of the Alps' Haute Route – simple, comfortable huts in the silence of the high country set roughly a day's ski apart.
You can slide into any one hut for a quick overnight, or load up your pack for a rigorous, multiday circumnavigation. Benedict saw the trail as a chance to honor the ski troops and a way to reconnect with the sport's free-heel, wild-snow roots – to, in his words, “help preserve a kind of simple enjoyment of the mountains.”
Twenty thousand skiers a year ply the trails between huts, with a growing percentage of them using Leadville as a start point. http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascitystar/living/travel/7710438.htm?ERIGHTS=-1259010872217114688kansascity::[email protected]&KRD_RM=8oopxtsuwoxwwpovpwuooooooo|Roger|N
"Grand Canyon: A Different View" is the 2003 work of Tom Vail, who collected essays from 23 contributors, most of whom hold doctorates in science-related fields. His book presents a creation science viewpoint of the Canyon's formation that is quite different than what most Canyon visitors are told.
Creation scientists present evidence that the Grand Canyon was formed not by the slow erosion of the Colorado River over millions of years, but by a lot of water over a short period of time.
The controversial "Grand Canyon: A Different View" has been on sale at the Canyon's bookstores since last fall. It quickly raised the hackles of the presidents of seven science organizations, who jointly signed a December 16, 2003 letter to the park's superintendent urging him to remove the book.
Apparently in an effort to placate some outraged Grand Canyon employees, the book has been moved from the natural sciences section to the inspirational reading section of park bookstores.
"I've had reactions from the staff all over the board on it," park Deputy Supt. Kate Cannon told the Los Angeles Times. "There were certainly people on the interpretive staff that were upset by it. Respect of visitors' views is imperative, but we do urge our interpreters to give scientifically correct information."
Washington-based Park Service spokesman David Barna told the Los Angeles Times that each park determines which products are sold in its bookstores and gift shops. The creationist book at the Grand Canyon was unanimously approved by a new-product review panel of park and gift shop personnel.
But the book's status at the park is still up in the air. Grand Canyon's superintendent Joe Alston has sought guidance from Park Service headquarters in Washington. Meanwhile, the book has sold out and is being reordered, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The situation escalated when a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a self-described "private, non-profit organization that protects the government employees who protect our environment" got involved and issued a press release lambasting what they saw as a "Christian fundamentalist" takeover of the National Park Service.
Posted by Environmental Media Services, the press release <http://www.ems.org/rls/2003/12/22/religion_on_disp.html> was headlined "Religion on Display in National Parks; Christian Fundamentalist Influence on Park Service Decisions - 'Faith-Based Parks' Decried."
But that experience led Coffey to write "Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure." Her book lifts the lid off a taboo in the alpine world -- discussing the fears, feelings and heartache of those left behind, particularly when a climber dies in pursuit of a mountain. She will discuss the topic in Seattle tonight.
Now married and living on an island off of Vancouver Island, Coffey, 52, is a full-time author who has found catharsis through writing. Her book features a number of well-known mountaineers from Seattle and Western Washington.
"I was invited to the Banff Mountain Film Festival to take part in a seminar about the high cost of mountaineering. I talked very honestly and openly about what it was like to be in love with a high alpine mountaineer and what it was like to lose one. ... It caused a lot of controversy. There was a huge discussion afterwards. I had the sense that I'd really broke(n) a huge taboo during that seminar. My first reaction was that I didn't want to go into that territory again. ... But there were a lot of people in that world whose voice had never been heard -- the parents and children and other partners of climbers."
How did you get the climbers and their families, who often avoid this subject, to talk to you?
It wasn't difficult, and very few people turned me down. I think the reason for that was my own personal history. Every climber that I talked to knew of Joe Tasker. In the book, I refer to the community as being a tribe, and even though I never climbed myself, I'm still viewed as a part of the tribe. ... Because I had lost somebody to the mountains, that opened the door. So many people said to me, 'I wouldn't talk to anybody else. But I will talk to you.' "
How many climbers whom you've known have died?
"To be honest, I haven't kept a tally because, at some point, it became too depressing. What I do know is that by the time I was 33, I had been to about 10 funerals or memorial services for people my age or younger who'd died climbing."
What was the most forbidden subject you tackled in the book?
"Infidelity (by Joe Tasker, discovered in some of his letters, posthumously). That was the one. ... I think anybody would find it difficult, but it was almost like heaping it on. He went away for months at a time on dangerous expeditions, so I had to deal with stress and fear, and then on top of it to have to deal with infidelity was difficult. There were a lot of stories that I didn't publish in the book ... and also, children talking about their parents. Some of them were very open. It made me realize how hard it is for children to be critical of their parents publicly."
Third Edition of Hikes and Walks in the Berkshire Hills
August 10 2004, 10:25 AM
STAMFORD, Vt. -- Berkshire House has released a new edition of "Hikes and Walks in the Berkshire Hills" and author Lauren Stevens, a longtime Williamstown resident now residing in Stamford, is happy that the book has entered some significant new territory in the local forests.
The book's first edition was published in 1990 and has become the standard guide in the area, thanks to Stevens' familiarity with the trails he writes about, as well as their histories, and his attention to the details of what is to be discovered. Though Stevens' experience goes far beyond the walks he covered in the book, he demanded of himself a certain level of intimacy before they were included -- he didn't want the book to get too show-offy or esoteric.
"I had to make sure that I absolutely knew these trails, these are not casual acquaintances, these are good friends," said Stevens. "So it's not just one I walked off and found this neat old logging road somewhere and probably could never find it again, I'm not going to include that in the book." http://www.thetranscript.com/Stories/0,1413,103~9054~2323577,00.html
Book offers attractive views of Denali aviation
Bruce McAllister offers a triple treat to book lovers. He is a good writer, a wonderful photographer and an expert on aviation history.
His latest volume is "Wings Over Denali," highlighting the unique aerial adventures associated with the continents highest peak.
The flyers McAllister features describe Denali as a place combining awesome beauty with frigid cold, fickle weather, poor visibility, high altitude and treacherous drafts. These conditions place special demands on pilots and equipment.
"Aircraft play a critical role in moving people in and out of this magnificent park: transporting climbers, rescuing them, taking tourists on breathtaking aerial tours of the park," he writes in his introduction. "The glacier pilots who have flown Denali and who play this critical role are members of a small and select fraternity ‹ there are only a few dozen glacier pilots in the world."
The author takes a broader approach than the title suggests. He chronicles, as expected, landmark flights such as Matt Nieminen's and Cecil Higgins' first trip over the mountain's summit in 1930 and pilot Joe Crosson's accomplishments as the first to measure the peak's elevation, in 1931, and to land on one of its glaciers, in 1932. But his background subject matter also includes pioneering flights throughout Alaska's Interior, such as Noel Wien's trial run from Anchorage to Fairbanks in 1924, and a chapter devoted to the history of Talkeetna. http://www.peninsulaclarion.com/stories/081204/ins_081204ins004001.shtml
Day & Overnight Hikes: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
August 28 2004, 1:13 PM
Hikers, campers, fishermen and anyone else who want to make the trek to the highlands of western North Carolina and Tennessee have a new aid to help them find just the right hike and know what to expect when they get there. A revised new edition of "Day & Overnight Hikes: Great Smoky Mountains National Park" can point them to the beauty and solitude that can found in the less traveled areas of the park.
Author Johnny Molloy hiked hundreds of miles to gather information on 31 day hikes and 10 overnight treks that rank among the best in the park. Hikers can choose from out-and-back hikes like Sutton Ridge, loop day hikes such as Smokemont, or overnight loops to places like Mount Sterling.
Each trail profile offers commentary on what to expect along the way and rates each hike for things like scenery, difficulty, solitude and other factors. Detailed trail maps, elevation profiles and clear directions make the guide user-friendly, but still leave plenty for the hiker to discover on his own.
While it is impossible to verify how complete and correct any trail guide is without visiting each area mentioned, you can spot-check by examining the notes on familiar places.
Savage Mountain: Fatal Lifes of First 5 Women to Summit K2
February 5 2005, 10:27 PM
The New York Times in reviewing Jennifer Jordan’s book about the first five women who climbed K2 (and had unhappy ends) notes the women also had unhappy lifes. The book is entitled “Savage Summit : The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2, the World’s Most Feared Mountain.” For instance there’s Wanda Rutkiewicz who climbed 8 of the world’s 14 peak over 8,00 meters. She had three husbands, few friends and fellow climbers stole her sleeping bag on Everest and her fellow male climbers claimed she never summited Annapurna until she produced the pictures to prove it. Chantal Mauduit was derided for using sherpas –which most climbers use. There was Alison Hargreaves who is believed to have perished on K2 as an attempt to safe her flagging fortunes. There other woman are Julie Tullis and Liliane Barrard http://americasroof.com/wp/archives/2005/02/05/savage-summit-the-fatal-lifes-of-the-first-5-women-to-summit-k2/
Tour Celebrates Second Edition of Mike Gauthier’s Rainier Climbing Guide
April 12 2005, 2:01 PM
Rainier Climbing Ranger Mike Gauthier is embarking on a national book tour to celebrate the second edition of his famous “Rainier Climbing Guide.” The new edition has quite a bit of additional information on: Training, Guiding, Glaciers, History, Biographies and over 60 new
images, many of which are aerial.
The April edition of Seattle Magazine kicked things off with a lengthy piece. The Los Angeles Times ran an article on April 12 with many of Mike’s own pictures.
The Los Angeles Times article may well be one of the best profiles ever written on Gauthier (dubbed Gator by friends) as it traces Gauthier’s transformation in 1995 from just a seasonal ranger to the climbing ranger. The cause for the transformation was when two fellow rangers were killed on the mountain and Gauthier saw how unprepared they were with their crampoons duct taped on. Gauthier revamped rescue operations at Mt. Rainier by insisting that team members be climbers first, rangers second. He’s become a part of local lore for his ability to fish the fallen out of crevasses and lead the stranded out of harm’s way.
The article notes “The deadliest common denominator for Mt. Rainier climbers is the Muir snowfield below Camp Muir at 10,400 feet. The snow consistency varies with exposure to the sun. An easy glissade in soft snow becomes uncontrollable in icier, shaded spots.”
Gautheir said the choice of a partner is the most important decision you make on Rainier.
“Fitness is a huge factor,” Gauthier says. Many climbers “like to blame weather, glaciers and other things, but people who are generally strong still will push on to the summit.”
The associated text box notes:
There are about 40 routes up Washington’s high point. Last year, 4,951 climbers made it to the top.
First climbed: 1870, Hazard Stevens, Philemon Beecher Van Trump (John Muir summitted in 1888)
The book tour schedule:
Book tour dates and locations
April 19, Tuesday
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Place: Patagonia, 8550 White Fir Street Reno, NV
Event: Slide show followed by Q&A and book signing
Contact: Mike Colpo: 888-500-0046
April 21, Thursday
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: REI, 2225 Harvard Way, Reno, NV
Event: Slide show followed by Q&A and book signing
May 3, Tuesday
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Mountaineers Club-Tacoma Branch, 2302 N 30th St, Tacoma, WA
Event: Slide show followed by Q&A and book signing
Contact: Dan Lauren, Climbing Chair, Tacoma Mountaineers, [email protected], or 253-924-3309
May 4, Wednesday
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Alpine Experience, 408 Olympia Ave. N.E., Olympia, WA
Event: Slide show followed by Q&A and book signing
With Altitude: Challenging the Adirondack High Peaks in Winter
October 31 2005, 12:00 AM
The Democrat Chronicle reports Carol White wrote a book entitled “Women With Altitude: Challenging the Adirondack High Peaks in Winter (North Country Books, $19.95).
White wrote the book, due out in November, after becoming the 20th woman Winter 46er in 1997.
A Winter 46er is a person who has climbed all 46 4,000-foot mountains in the Adirondacks during the winter months (Dec. 21 to March 21). After last winter, there were 313 Winter 46ers, including 50 women.
The cannisters were part of Adirondack 46R lore and were part of the 46R experience until just a few years ago (circa 2000). It was at that point that a joint State DEC/46R Club effort was undertaken under the banner of "land use management." The major result of this was the consolidation of the multitude of herd paths to the trailless summits into one main path (not officially labelled a trail) to the the summit of each peak. The cannisters were originally put in place when the summits were much more difficult to find as a way of signing through to prove you were there. With the herd path consolidation, it was determined that such cannisters weren't really necessary anymore so they were replaced with simple wooden signs.
Notably, the cannisters still remain in place on the trailless Catskill 3500 club peaks, which receive much less use and often require bushwhacking skills to reach.
Connecticut Walk Book Celebrates 75th Anniversary of 800 Miles of Blue Blazed Trails in St
November 1 2005, 12:07 PM
The Town Times reports The Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) has released 19th edition of the Connecticut Walk Book. One of two volumes, the first to appear on the shelves is the Walk Book East covering all the trails in eastern and central Connecticut.
The arrival of the book comes on the heels of the 75th anniversary of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails, a network of over 800 miles of trails that blanket the state.
Open to the public and free of charge, the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System has been operated and maintained by CFPA as a public service since 1929. The trails boast historic sites, breathtaking views and a variety of terrain from easy to challenging.
A volunteer corps of several hundred trail maintainers ensure that the trails are kept open and well marked. Most residents in eastern Connecticut will find a Blue Trail within 20 minutes of their home.
Edited by Ann Colson and Cindi Pietrzyk, the new edition is a departure from earlier versions, with easier-to-read two-color maps accompanied by informative historical, botanical and archeological explanations for sites along the trails. Its three-ring binder format enables users to remove the maps for convenience.
The maps are the result of a three-year odyssey for volunteers equipped with global positioning units who traversed all 800 miles of trails collecting data. The first Walk Book was published by the association in 1937.