Seventy-nine years ago, on February 18, 1945, one thousand 10th Mountain Division soldiers began a night-time ascent of Riva Ridge, an escarpment in Italy’s Apennine mountains so steep the German soldiers stationed on top thought it impossible to climb.

The successful ascent not only broke Hitler’s Gothic Line; it precipitated the German surrender of Italy and hastened the end of the war as well. Post-war, veterans of the action returned to the States, where they helped launch America’s $1T outdoor industry.

This Sunday, February 18, on the anniversary of the Riva Ridge climb, outdoor enthusiasts around the country will have the opportunity to experience the challenge of the historic climb in three locations around the country: Whiteface Mountain, NY, where early incarnations of the 10th Mountain Division learned to ski; Ski Cooper, Colorado, where the 10th Mountain Division trained; and on Mt. Glory in Jackson Hole. The 10th Mountain Division’s motto was, and is, “Climb to Glory.”

The tribute is the brainchild of Christian Beckwith, the creator and host of Ninety-Pound Rucksack, a podcast about the 10th Mountain Division and its impact on American outdoor recreation. 

“The 10th Mountain Division trained for more than three years—often carrying ninety-pound ‘rucksacks,’ or backpacks—to fight the Axis powers in extreme cold and mountainous terrain,” he said. “Their ascent of Riva Ridge entailed carrying fifty-pound packs up 1,500 to 2,500 feet of vertical gain. I thought modern skiers would be inspired to experience what carrying that much weight felt like, while paying tribute to their roots.”

Post-war, 10th Mountain Division veterans started companies like NOLS and Nike, launched the fields of avalanche science and wilderness rescue and founded or developed more than 60 ski areas around America, including Steamboat, Vail, Arapahoe Basin and Jackson’s Snow King Mountain.

The Challenge will begin at 7 p.m. in each of the three locations—the same time that the 10th began their ascent of Riva Ridge. It is being organized by Beckwith and members of the 10th Mountain Alpine Club, an ancillary organization that supports the 10th Mountain Division.

Members of 10th MAC, including active duty members of the 10th Mountain Division, will lead the New York and Colorado climbs. 

The public is invited to join in any of the three locations and experience the challenge the 10th soldiers faced first-hand, albeit under safer conditions. Participants will be encouraged to carry weight in their rucksacks, emulating the original fifty-pound loads, though any amount is welcome for the tribute. 

While the event seeks to replicate the physical rigors of the original ascent, the safety of participants remains a priority. Unlike the Riva Ridge climb, no enemy soldiers will be waiting on top.

All attendees will be required to sign a waiver, acknowledging the risks and releasing organizers from liability. Such an approach ensures a respectful and mindful engagement with the challenge, emphasizing the importance of preparedness and responsibility in outdoor adventures.

Participants interested in the Mt. Glory climb are asked to meet in the parking lot atop Teton Pass at 6:30 p.m. A scale will be on hand to weigh packs.

Participants are encouraged to use water for the weight and dump it out before making their descents. They may use the hashtags #ClimbToGlory #NinetyPoundRucksack to share their journey.