Climb to Conquer: The Untold Story of Wwii's 10th Mountain Division

Peter Shelton (Author)


Few stories from the "greatest generation" are as unforgettable -- or as little known -- as that of the 10th Mountain Division. Today a versatile light infantry unit deployed around the world, the 10th began in 1941 as a crew of civilian athletes with a passion for mountains and snow. In this vivid history, adventure writer Peter Shelton follows the unique division from its conception on a Vermont ski hill, through its dramatic World War II coming-of-age, to the ultimate revolution it inspired in American outdoor life.

In the late-1930s United States, rock climbing and downhill skiing were relatively new sports. But World War II brought a need for men who could handle extreme mountainous conditions -- and the elite 10th Mountain Division was born. Everything about it was unprecedented: It was the sole U.S. Army division trained on snow and rock, the only division ever to grow out of a sport. It had an un-matched number of professional athletes, college scholars, and potential officer candidates, and as the last U.S. division to enter the war in Europe, it suffered the highest number of casualties per combat day. This is the 10th's surprising, suspenseful, and often touching story.

Drawing on years of interviews and research, Shelton re-creates the ski troops' lively, extensive, and sometimes experimental training and their journey from boot camp to the Italian Apennines. There, scaling a 1,500-foot "unclimbable" cliff face in the dead of night, they stunned their enemy and began the eventual rout of the German armies from northern Italy.

It was a self-selecting elite, a brotherhood in sport and spirit. And those who survived (including the Sierra Club's David Brower, Aspen Skiing Corporation founder Friedl Pfeifer, and Nike cofounder Bill Bowerman, who developed the waffle-sole running shoe) turned their love of mountains into the thriving outdoor industry that has transformed the way Americans see (and play in) the natural world.

Product Details

Scribner Book Company
Publish Date
May 16, 2011
6.0 X 0.9 X 8.9 inches | 0.9 pounds
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About the Author

Peter Shelton has been a contributing editor and columnist at Ski magazine (where he first wrote about the 10th Mountain Division), as well as a correspondent for Outside magazine since 1984. He lives in Montrose, Colorado.


Otto Lang Noted Filmmaker, author of "Around The World in 90 Years, " and prewar Sun Valley Ski School director Reading Peter Shelton's book "Climb to Conquer" is a revelation. Shelton, with his lucid, informative, and entertaining style of writing, vividly brings back the memory of many of the 10th Mountain participants. It's a minutely researched and well-documented piece of work, worthy of one's while to read, with ample rewards.
Dick Bass Co-Author of "Seven Summits" and developer of Snowbird Ski Resort Thank goodness the story of the 10th Mountain Division is finally being told. I've had the distinct privilege and benefit of knowing and learning from a number of those described and quoted within these pages, and "Climb to Conquer" brings their extraordinary achievements to life, showing how their battlefield qualities of courage, perseverance, and resourcefulness also served them well as they became the backbone of the post-World War II evolution of American skiing and outdoor recreation. Peter Shelton tells their story so vividly, poignantly, and inspiringly that I couldn't put it down.
David Breashears Author of "High Exposure, " Expedition Leader and co-director of the Imax film "Everest" Peter Shelton's "Climb to Conquer" is the story of the birth of American mountain adventure as we know it, brought together with riveting, little-known World War II history. Shelton puts us right alongside these endearing young mountain men as they learn to ski, climb, and survive in a bitterly cold and hostile environment. Their story will have you grinning one moment and gripping your chair the next, as they engage in mischief-making adventures, or ultimately climb a sheer cliff into enemy territory in the dead of night. It's a fantastic story, superbly told, and I highly recommend it.
Russell Martin Author of "Beethoven's Hair" and "Picasso's War" The story of the army's 10th Mountain Division -- the ski troops -- and the decisive role it played in driving the Nazis from Italy is one of the most fascinating sagas of World War II. Peter Shelton, who writes as beautifully as he skis, tells it wonderfully. "Climb to Conquer" is a book about young men, now grown old, who have much to teach us about the immense importance of friendship, the collective nature of courage, and the transcendent gift of high mountains.