February 1944 Trooper Traverse Participant List – Roster (annotated)


The 33 soldiers (30 enlisted men and 3 officers) on the 1944 “Trooper Traverse” came from three components of the soldiers stationed at Camp Hale, Colorado: 10th Reconnaissance Troop, Mountain Training Group, and 10th Medics. It appears that participation in these groups was somewhat arbitrary, and men were placed where needed and where their skills necessitated. For example, famed climber Paul Petzoldt stated in a video interview that he was scrubbing floors in the mess hall, when an officer saw him and said, “Are you Paul Petzoldt?” Paul affirmed that he was indeed the man, and the officer transferred Petzoldt from scullery work to creating, from scratch, the Army’s methodology for mountain evacuation. (Petzoldt statements from video Fire on the Mountain).

Note there may have been a few other soldiers on this ski traverse. Trip participant Ralph Ball loaned this author photos of the trip he claims were made by James Norman Richardson, but Richardson is not on the roster as presented in the Ski-Zette. It’s possible the Ball photos are actually those made by Horace Quick, and I believe this to be the case.

Officially, according to the Camp Hale Ski-Zette newspaper, March 3, 1944, the 10th Reconnaissance troop was commanded by Capt. John Jay, and the Mountain Training Group was commanded by Lt. Col. Paul Lafferty. Both were organizations within the 15th Headquarters Detachment under command of Col. D. P. Spalding. John Jay was on the ski traverse and was the official leader of the trip, Paul Lafferty was not on the trip.

Men on the trip as listed in the March 1944 Ski-Zette Camp Hale newspaper, alphabetic:

— Glen Asher

— Ralph Ball (Deceased, lived in Carbondale Colorado, Dawson was in touch with him, Mtn. Training Group.)

— Fred Beckey (According to traverse vet Glen Dawson this is indeed the famous climber, Lou Dawson did some climbing with him once.)

— Albert Beesmer

— Andrews Black

— Donald Borthwick (Deceased, lived in Aspen area for many years)

— William “Bill” Bowes

— John Chappell (Deceased, auto accident 1954, Dawson in touch with daughter Randi Atchison.)

— Neil Christie (Deceased, his son repeated Trooper Traverse, lives in Colorado.)

— Thomas Degles

— Glen Dawson (Still living in 2001, well known mountaineer.)

— W.A. Eastman

— Maurice Finn

— Joseph Froelich

— William Hackett (Famed mountaineer and mountain medicine expert, deceased.)

— Hans Hagemeister (Principle in ski equipment industry for many years.)

— Charles Hampton

— George Hurt (Mtn. Training Group)

— John Jay (Pioneer of ski cinematography, deceased, commander of 10th Reconnaissance Troop, may not have been on trip, some say he was.)

— Charles Klingerman

— Mattias Madsen

— Jack Major

— Russ M. McJury (Commander of 10th Recon, one of the trip leaders)

— Robert McCaig

— Nathan Morrell

— Erling Omland (Living in Vermont, was in contact with Dawson during research.)

— Paul Petzoldt (10th Medics, world famous mountaineer, founded NOLS, deceased.)

— James Popp

— Horace Quick (Artist and photographer, posed for famed Sat. Evening Post cover, Dawson contacted him, he lives in Colorado.)

— Richard Rocker (Mtn. Training Group, field commissioned during combat.)

— Hans Sarbach

— Ernest “Tap” Tapley (Famous outdoorsman, worked with Petzoldt to found United States Outward Bound as well as NOLS, Dawson in contact with him.)

— Burdell “Bud” Winter (Died in combat, 10th Mountain Uncle Bud’s Hut is memorial to him.)

It’s known there were several groups of soldiers who hiked a similar route between Leadville and Aspen, one during autumn when they trudged through snow above timberline. With the mist of time, some of these groups have been mistaken for ski trips by sources this author has contacted. Also, there was at least one group of soldiers that traveled from Camp Hale (Pando) to Glenwood Springs on foot, possibly in part on skis. To the best of this author’s knowledge after extensive historical research, the February 1944 trip done by the men listed above was the only true 10th Mountain Division ski mountaineering trip done from Leadville to Aspen, over the alpine highland across the highest part of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is the only “Trooper Traverse.”

Note: A few journalists have written that another Trooper Traverse occurred during winter of 1942/1943. Nothing in my research verifies this. Chances are slim this really happened, as 1942/1943 was the first winter Camp Hale was fully operational (the soldiers did not move there in mass until December 1942). While some of the soldiers had previously done ski mountaineering out of the previous Washington State headquarters, it’s doubtful the soldiers having newly arrived at Hale had enough gear and organization to have done the route in the ensuing winter months of 1943. (Though if solid information comes to light we will amend this and other articles — so far I’ve seen nothing). More, The March 1944 Camp Hale Ski-Zette newspaper reports states the 1944 trip was “one of the most ambitious ski marches ever attempted by mountain troopers at this station…,” another indication that the 1944 traverse was unique and the only one. Possibly adding to the confusion, as the 1944 traverse occurred in February, it’s possible the years was mistaken as “1943” by vets recalling the trip.

Another source of confusion might be Aspen ski industry founder and 10th vet Friedl Pfeifer’s mention, in his autobiography and in various description of his Aspen life, of a Hale to Aspen solider’s “march” in early June of 1943. The snowline would have been above timberline by then, and Pfeifer mentions nothing about using skis on the “march.” Moreover, if his group had traversed over the high Continental Divide, he certainly would have mentioned it, as doing so in those days was worth noting. I suspect Pfeifer’s hike has been conflated more than once with the 1944 Trooper Traverse, thus adding to any confusion.

Also, Pfeifer mentions a failed attempt by soldiers to snow travel from Aspen to Hale, apparently around early May of 1943. It is highly likely that the journalist who write of another Trooper Traverse are referring to the aborted attempt, as it was a somewhat big deal that involved 60 men, and nicknamed the “Route of the 87th.”

(Sourced primarily from Camp Hale newspaper report, with additional information from surviving participants interviewed by Louis Dawson.)

Pfeifer, F. & Lund, Moreten (1994). Nice Goin: My Life on Skis (2nd ed.). Pictorial Histories Publishing Co.

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