Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Climb to Conquer * * *

This book tells the story of the Tenth Mountain Division, which was formed by a bunch of skiers/mountaineers during WW II. Any skier or climber is sure to know something about the X Mountain Division since the veterans came home and started most of our ski areas: Vail and Aspen are the super famous ones, but they started many, many others including, here in the PNW, Crystal Mtn, Mission Ridge and Mt. Bachelor. For some reason, I had always imagined that they fought in only one battle and basically spent the war skiing. The latter is in a sense true. They trained and skied for 3 years and were the last division to enter the war. However, when they did enter, they were in brutal battles in the mountains in Italy. Their division suffered the worst casualties of any U.S. division, something like 30%.

For me, the most interesting part about the book were the sections where different men talked about what it was like to be in a war. These are people I can entirely relate to. We like the same things, have the same values, and have similar outlooks on life (nature lovers and wannabe ski bums). It was interesting to me that they said you "got used to" people getting killed and your own imminent death -- bizarre as it seems. They also talked about how you could be scared out of your mind and yet still manage to move forward and not be paralyzed by fear. Being around others and feeling a sense of responsibility to them and yourself changed everything.

Overall, I would recommend this book to those interested in the Tenth Mountain Division. It's an easy read if you are interested in the topic.