Ninety-Pound Rucksack

Ninety-Pound Rucksack

Ninety-Pound Rucksack is a podcast about the US Army's legendary 10th Mountain Division, a gritty unit of World War II climbers and skiers who trained for more than two years in the Colorado Rockies (often wearing ninety-pound “rucksacks,” or backpacks) to fight the Axis powers in extreme cold and mountainous terrain. Not only did the Division's insertion into the war help end Germany’s occupation of Italy; post-war, its veterans founded and developed ski areas across America, started companies like NOLS and Nike and launched the fields of avalanche science and wilderness rescue. Equal parts real-time research, intimate conversation and revelatory journalism, Ninety-Pound Rucksack explores not only the stories that made the unit famous, but also the transformative power of the mountains to forge a collective identity among the mountain troops—and to ignite a passion for the outdoors that reshaped American society in the process.


March 25, 2024 141 mins

Illuminating a pivotal moment in both military and outdoor recreation history, this groundbreaking episode reveals the collaborative efforts of America’s leading mountaineers to equip the 10th Mountain Division for war. Featuring original research and exclusive interviews, the episode details the audacious climbs and expeditions used to test the mountain troops' gear—and that revolutionized the American outdoor recreation industry ...

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Episode 8: Gear Heads, Part 1 is the first segment of our two-part mini-series that examines the equipment, clothing and food developed, at great expense, for the 10th Mountain Division. Not only did this development make the soldiers’ ability to train for cold-weather and mountain offensives like Riva Ridge possible; post-war, it catalyzed the explosive growth of America’s nascent outdoor recreation industry as well.


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January 11, 2024 38 mins

With this special bonus episode, the 10th Mountain Division’s commanding officer, Major General Greg Anderson, and its Command Sergeant Major Nema Mobar identify some of the lessons learned from the Division’s World War II inception and the relevance of those lessons to its efforts to rebuild its military mountaineering identity, culture and capacities.

What has changed between the original division and it...

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October 26, 2023 67 mins

Featuring original and previously unpublished research, Episode 7 reveals the untold story of H. Adams Carter, the Harvard Five, and their groundbreaking efforts to make the 10th Mountain Division the best-trained, best-fed, best-equipped mountain unit in the world.

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July 27, 2023 88 mins

Episode 6 follows the mountain troops to Mount Rainier National Park where, in the middle of February 1942, they began their ski training at one of the best places a soldier could ever learn to ski—a place called, appropriately enough, Paradise.

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Available only to patrons, the Unabridged version of Episode 6 features the...

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June 7, 2023 59 mins

Episode 5 explores the pivotal period from late 1941 until early 1942 when the War Department activated the 87th Infantry Mountain Regiment, America’s very first test force for cold-weather and mountain warfare, and it prepared to train in Paradise Valley on the flanks of Mount Rainier.

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March 23, 2023 70 mins

Episode 4 takes a deep dive into the US Army's experimental ski patrols of 1940-1941, as well as the events that led to the activation of the 1st Battalion (Reinforced), 87th Mountain Infantry at Ft. Lewis, Washington—the unit that would eventually become the 10th Mountain Division.

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February 4, 2023 64 mins

The Drumbeats of War: Episode 3 explores the 10th Mountain Division’s backstory in the lead-up to America’s entry into World War II.

The episode includes abridged interviews with Chris Juergens, PhD, the Anschutz Curator of Military History at History Colorado, on the history of Germany’s mountain troops, and Sepp Scanlin, the former director of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum, on the resistance the idea of an Ameri...

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Episode 2, Part 2 delivers a deep dive into the state of American and European climbing before the war, as well as how the rise of the Third Reich caused some of the best German and Austro-Hungarian mountaineers to emigrate, influencing climbing and skiing in America and contributing to 10th Mountain Division’s fighting skills. 

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Episode 2, Part 1 provides a sweeping overview of the history of skiing in America as told through the experiences of one of the 10th Mountain Division’s greatest unsung heroes, John Andrew McCown II. Episode includes interview excerpts with Paul Petzoldt, the Teton climbing legend who would Read more

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October 19, 2022 56 mins

This episode explores how the 1939 Soviet invasion of Finland catalyzed the creation of the 10th Mountain Division… with a little help from the National Ski Patrol System, the United States Army, and a couple of twenty-something climbers from The American Alpine Club.


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October 11, 2022 1 min

Ninety-Pound Rucksack is a podcast about the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the dawn of outdoor recreation in America. Join host Christian Beckwith, former editor of The American Alpine Journal and founding editor of Alpinist Magazine, and an advisory board of the 10th Mountain Division’s foremost experts as we immerse ourselves in the living legacy of Am...

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August 29, 2022 21 mins

In this episode, podcast host Christian Beckwith details how a search for the roots of Teton mountaineering led to a podcast (and book) about the US Army's 10th Mountain Division and the dawn of outdoor recreation in America.

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