Camp Hale

This US Army camp was constructed a few miles north of Leadville, Colorado at the beginning of World War II, and was the home of the 10th Mountain Division.  It was the brainchild of Charles M. Dole who, seeing the need for high altitude and mountain training for the US military, petitioned the “War Department” for funding and a facility to provide such training.

After getting approval he organized a group of volunteers and they initially trained at Mount Rainier in Washington state until Camp Hale was completed in the fall of 1941.  Soldiers were taught how to ski and snowshoe (if they didn’t know how to already) and were also taught rock and mountain climbing skills and cold weather survival techniques.  It was also used to test clothing and equipment to be used in harsh, winter conditions.  At its peak Camp Hale was home to 15,000 soldiers and 5,000 pack mules and horses.

That training paid off handsomely when the 10th Mountain Division was deployed to northern Italy to fight the Germans in January of 1945. On February 18, 1945 they surprised the Germans by climbing and taking “unclimbable” Riva Ridge, a German stronghold.  They never lost a battle and continued on to take Mt. Belvedere and other sites, including the strategic Po River Valley, before forcing the Germans to retreat on May 2.

After the war it was decided there wouldn’t be a need to continue such training and Camp Hale was slowly dismantled, though it did serve as the home of the Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command from 1951 to 1957.  That group was later re-established at Fort Drum, New York in 1985.

Camp Hale was formally closed in 1965 and the land was turned over to the US Forest Service a year later.  Other than a few concrete foundations, nothing remains at the site other than some information boards at an overlook.

This memorial, listing the 990 soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who died in combat, is outside the entrance of Ski Cooper resort, 7 miles south of where Camp Hale was located.


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