Camp Hale Ski-Zette Trooper Traverse Article – 1944


[This is a transcription of the Trooper Traverse article originally published in the Camp Hale Ski-Zette newspaper, March 3, 1944. It is lightly edited and annotated for clarity by our editors, 2021]

From the 1944 Ski-Zette: “Recon, MTG and Petzoldt — Make Rugged 50-Mile Ski Trek to Aspen

[Eventual NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt was a famed mountaineer at the time, and it’s said the troops were impressed and proud to have him at Camp Hale.]

Members of the 10th Reconnaissance Troop, the Mountain Training Group, and the 10th Medics, made on of the most ambitious ski marches ever attempted by mountain troopers at this station last week. The distance traveled, approximately 50 miles, from Malta to Aspen, gives no indication of the magnitude of the march, since the terrain covered is among the roughest and most rugged to be found in the United States.
[Malta is a townsite and rail siding a short distance southwest of Leadville]

1944 Camp Hale Ski-Zette

1944 Camp Hale Ski-Zette

In all, 30 enlisted men and three officers made the trip, going from Camp Hale to Malta in trucks, and there donning their skis and taking off into the real wilderness — high mountains and narrow valleys, all covered with deep and powdery snow.

The men carried heavy rucksacks, avalanche probes and shovels, rope, ice axes and rations for the trip. Officially, the expedition was a training reconnaissance trip, but to the men of the organizations taking part, it was also a pleasure “exertion’ and many among them were noted climbers and skiers.

With Lt. R. M. McJury, 10th Recon, leading, the men started their grueling march up Half Moon Creek, between the towering peaks of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert [famed fourteener peaks, Elbert highest in Colorado]. High up in the mountains, in the headwaters of Half Moon, the party bivouacked for the first night.

On the morning of the second day, they left the Half Moon trail and crossed the Champion-Deer Mountain Pass into the Fork of Lake Creek, where they spent their second night en route.

Early on the third morning, they again took up the march, and climbed right over the backbone of the Continent, when they topped the Continental Divide in the Sawatch Range, well over 13,000 feet high. This was done before lunch. In the afternoon, down they they went on a four-mile slope, where schussing for half a mile was possible. The snow was soft in spots, but generally good.

The same afternoon, as if the crossing of the Continental Divide was not enough, the skiers tackled and conquered the Williams Range. Down the other side to the North Fork of Hunter Creek they skied [in the dark, down what has come to be called the Trooper Couloir], where they spent the third night of the trip.

On the morning of the fourth day, the group traveled down Hunter Creek and then across Thimble Rock Ridge. [Thimble Rock is actually just a land feature, and is used as a way to circumvent a part of Hunter Creek that’s difficult bushwhacking.]

Here, for the first time since Malta, a road, albeit only a very old pack road, was struck, down which the Hale men skied the remaining distance, about 11 miles, to Aspen.

Throughout the trip, the members of the party rotated in trail-breaking. At places the snow was so deep that a man could last only ten minutes at the arduous task. Each man had a chance to exercise his ability in route selection, with the more experienced men ever ready to correct errors.

There were rocks to be scaled, avalanche danger to be avoided, overhangs, cornices and all manner of obstacles met with in cross-country skiing in the Rockies.

The bivouacs were made in deep snow, with improvised shelters and four-man tents being used. The bivouac fires, built on the surface of the snow, by morning would have sunk completely out of sight in the powdery stuff.

Following the arrival of the group to Aspen, where they were welcomed by the mayor, more than two-thirds of the men, in spite of the trip just completed, climbed to the top of Roch Run and ran the “Corkscrew,” one of the noted ski runs in the United States.

Friday evening, February 25, the men were returned to Camp Hale by truck.”

[Roster of men follows in the Ski-Zette, we include here on as a separate article.]

[Trooper Traverse intro and index]

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