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Mountains of Honor

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It isn’t every day that climbers stop to wonder how the peak they’re scaling may have gotten its name. Mountaintops are associated more with lunch breaks and admiring spectacular scenery on a clear day than with history lessons. Consumed with the difficulties of reaching the top and anticipating the prospect of their descent, most climbers wouldn’t give the subject a moment’s thought. And perhaps the last thing on their minds would be the whistle of 88mm German artillery shells, explosions, and young lives cut short—but that is the bittersweet truth behind the names of three prominent peaks in the Sun Valley area.

Bromaghin Peak in the Smoky Mountains, as well as Handwerk and Duncan in the Pioneers, were named for three Sun Valley men who joined the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and were killed on the front lines as they helped drive the Germans out of Italy. Their story is worthy of pause, whether atop the spectacular summits that now memorialize them or by the comfortable light of a winter’s wood fire.

In his 1992 book Soldiers on Skis, Flint Whitlock writes, “Ski schools from resorts across America emptied their faculties into the 10th, [including] Glenn Stanley, Friedl Pfeifer, and Florain ‘Flokie’ Haemmerle from Sun Valley.” In fact, several dozen mountain types from the Wood River Valley signed up for the 10th—Ted Handwerk, Ralph Bromaghin, and Jonathan Duncan among them.

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