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On Wednesday, October 12, President Joe Biden officially announced the first national monument of his presidency: the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument in Colorado.
Located between Red Cliff and Leadville, CO, the new 53,804-acre monument will provide permanent protections for Camp Hale, which served as a training ground for the 10th Mountain Division during the Second World War, and the nearby Tenmile Range. The monument is home to Quandary Peak, Colorado’s most popular 14er, and numerous roadside climbing areas, plus several significant mountain traverses and ski areas.
The monument designation was decades in the making and came about thanks to a large coalition of 10th Mountain Division members, climbers, ranchers, conservationists, and elected officials. The Access Fund’s involvement in and support of this designation “stretches back 12 years.”
Celebrating climbing history
The 10th Mountain Division was formed in 1943 and was the only U.S. military unit to specialize in mountain warfare. After training at Camp Hale in 1943 and 1944—in the process developing many of the climbing, skiing, and mountaineering techniques that fueled the proliferation of the outdoor recreation industry in the post-war period—the division saw intense combat in the rugged mountains of Northern Italy, taking more than 4,000 casualties (30% of their fighting force) in five months of fighting. After the war, Camp Hale was abandoned (its structures are now largely ruins), but 10th Mountain Division veterans played a central role in the creation of the U.S. ski and climbing industries. (Fred Beckey was a 10th Mountain Division instructor, though he never saw combat.) The new monument designation helps celebrate American climbing history while layering extra protections upon the lands where soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division once trained.
The Camp Hale climbing area itself is home to some 60 bolted routes from 5.7 to 5.12c, and the historic “Camp Hale Practice Slab,” where climbers today can toprope on the same routes on which the 10th Mountain Division troops learned to climb.
Access Fund’s Executive Director Chris Winter says, “Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument secures both sustainable climbing access and long-term conservation—a winning combination for health and wellness, our economy, and our environment. Access Fund will continue to make sure that this new monument is protected for future generations and that all of us can sustainably access and enjoy these public lands.”
The Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument falls on the ancestral lands of the Uncompahgre Band of the Ute Indian Tribe. Hours after the Biden Administration announced the new monument designation, the Ute Indian Tribe blasted the President for not consulting them beforehand. The Ute Indian Tribe has been a longtime supporter of Bears Ears National Monument, but say that they “cannot support a monument on our homelands that does not include the Tribe.”
(Note: This story is developing. We will update as we have more information.)
The monument’s lands were previously part of the White River National Forest. According to the Biden Administration, the forest Service will continue to oversee the land and is tasked with “recognizing the ongoing use of the area for outdoor recreation, including skiing, hiking, camping, and snowmobiling. The management plan will also help guide the development of education and interpretative resources, to share the area’s full story, from the history of Indigenous peoples, to the heroic training and service of the 10th Mountain Division, while maintaining space for the area’s growing recreation economy.”