Trooper Traverse — 1944 First Person Account Richard Rocker

Annotated condensed and lightly edited account of the Trooper Traverse, Leadville to Aspen, 1944

by Richard Rocker, participant [edited by Louis Dawson]

For those of us lucky enough to be “invited” (assigned) to this venture of February 1944, it was one of the most memorable occasions of the Camp Hale experience. 24 to 25 [editor’s note: there were actually 33 men on the trip] officers and men were in the group, all ski instructors at Cooper Hill, all assigned to Mountain Training Group (M.T.G.), but otherwise between specific assignments.

Objective was to put our training and experience to the test in route finding, group cooperation, safety, self-sufficiency, etc. It was a four-day trip, each man carrying his own rations, sleeping bag, clothing and personal gear. We carried no weapons, but the packs were probably 50-60 pounds without them.

Our route was up Halfmoon Creek between Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive to Mt. Champion, then bearing right and climbing and skiing on high ridges most of the time. For two days after leaving the Halfmoon Drainage I doubt if we were under 12,000 feet at all.

We were able to stay high, mostly above timberline, because the weather was clear and relatively windless until the afternoon of the 3rd day, approaching the Williams Mountains, which we expected to be our most hazardous part of the trip — and it was. We came up to them easily enough with only a moderate climb on the northeast side. But by then it was 3:30 P.M., wind rising, clouded over, getting cold and beginning to snow. The map indicated a possible pass 3 miles north, but it was too late to get there before dark.

We decided to climb to the lowest part of the mountain above us, then hope for the best on the other side. We were lucky. From the top of the ridge we looked down a very narrow, very steep rock-studded gully that disappeared from view in 200 yards due to snow and growing darkness [The Trooper Couloir], but it looked possible, and better to risk it than stay where we were. Everybody, even our best skiers, cautiously side-stepped down the first narrow pitch, then made cautious traverses and kick turns. The snow was too crusty to allow any decent turns — no one really enjoyed it as “skiing,” but everyone made it safely out of the gully. The last 1/4 mile down into timber was safe skiing, but still snowing and too dark to see much!

Once in the timber we pitched tents, cooked supper, and hit the sleeping bags early. In the morning the weather cleared again after snow most of the night. All that was left to do was a 3-4 hour gradual downhill glide down Hunter Creek to Aspen. There was just time for a traditional Aspen Crud at the Jerome Bar before a truck arrived to take us back to Cooper Hill in time for supper.

It was a good trip, well handled by all, and a memorable one. There were a couple of other similar trips to Aspen from Hale (I know the 10th Recon made one in the fall by a different route (Homestake Creek), but I believe our M.T.G. trip was the only one in the dead of winter [that is correct].

[complete text for this account can be found in the 10th Mountain Collection at the Denver Public Library]

  Your Comments

  • Outdoor and Lifestyle Magazine: Hi I am a new reader, but will keep reading :) Have a great day...
  • Mammut Dave: Thanks Lou and Lisa! I think most of the questions in the comments have be...
  • Brandon: Is that a ski leash attachment on the left hand-side in the image of the Ma...
  • Slim: I know almost nothing about ski mechanics/technique. Do most people prefer...
  • Pete H: I just learned last summer Scarpa means "boot" in Italian. So if youre skii...
  • benwls: Aaron, I'd love to see your F1 mod. I'd also like a slightly more upright s...
  • benwls: If you completely undo the top buckle on Maestrales the articulation is mor...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Andy, I think the deal with Maestrale was it peaked during a time when ther...
  • Eric Steig: Any updates to the F1?...
  • WestonD: Rad skiing with you Louie, hopefully we get to do it again sometime!...
  • AndyDangerous: Coming from a skimo fast and light background, I've wondered for years how ...
  • Matt: Hi Louie, Do the maestrale and maestrale rs keep the cuff alignment bolt...
  • etto: New RS looks sweet! Never wrong to shave off weight and have the same perfo...
  • Tom M.: Hi Lou & Louie, Do you have any thoughts on the Faction Vacuum skin?...
  • Scott Mellin: I tried on the new Alien RS at the OR Demo after stepping directly out of m...
  • Brad: In one picture I saw of the new Maestrale and the RS, it looked like the RS...
  • Scott Mellin: I think that for those of us that have skied the Alien 1.0 for years now, t...
  • Ted: Does the middle buckle fold up out of the way when released or hang out to ...
  • Louie Dawson 3: Mike - I agree! those Dalbello boots look sweet. We have a pair on the way ...
  • MIke: Better yet y'all seem to have some pull in the industry. Could you call up ...
  • MIke: Thanks L3! Any way you can call up Dalbello and get a pair of the new 17/...
  • Louie Dawson 3: I did get a look at the Alien RS, and tried them on quickly. They are stiff...
  • Travis: WANT! These boots are just what I am looking for. Very excited about the lo...
  • Kristian: Hope that I am wrong, but the S4 toe tech insert look scary dangerous for r...
  • Aaron: I'm part way through my F1 lean lock mod to lower it from 20 deg....why 16 ...
  • Gary: Will the boot sole length be the same? Hoping I wont have to remount bindin...
  • MIke: Thanks Scott, how's the wear on the tread after 3 seasons? L3, any chanc...
  • Scott: Mike - Definitely! I have been skiing the RS as my inbounds boot, 50+ d...
  • Lou Dawson 2: I clarified information about which boots have the S4 toe tech insert. Just...
  • Paddy: Kind of hoping that a future part of this is a test of the new Alien RS. Li...

  Recent Posts


Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. While the authors and editors of the information on this website make every effort to present useful information about ski mountaineering, due to human error the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

Switch To Mobile Version