Don't step on a bomb

  • CLOSED QUARTERS: The barracks at Camp Hale c. 1943

    Ralph W. Hulbert, Denver Public Library Western History Collection, TMD-509


During World War II, up to 17,000 soldiers, including the famed ski troopers of the 10th Mountain Division, trained at Camp Hale near the town of Leadville, Colo. The men learned to ski, climb rocks and bivouac in 30-below weather. David Brower, who wrote the division's mountaineering manual, was there, as were Vail visionary Pete Seibert and Paul Petzoldt, founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander, Wyo.

Military training may be over, but the tools of war remain. This summer, five rifle grenades and the fuse for an anti-tank land mine were found, leading the Forest Service to close to the public 1,400 acres, including three miles of the Colorado Trail. Then on Oct. 12, a mile outside of the agency's closed area, bow hunters came upon a live fuse for an anti-tank land mine. It is possible that some of the unexploded munitions might have been left during 1959-1960, when the CIA secretly trained Tibetans for guerrilla warfare against China.

Camp Hale reverted back to the Forest Service in 1965, a time when environmental laws were lax. A 1985 law now mandates munitions surveys at former military sites, but public-land managers say this is a chore that could take decades.

Meanwhile, near Camp Hale, officials recommend leaving any suspicious items on the ground and reporting the discovery to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, 970/479-2200.

Copyright 2000 HCN and Allen Best

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