Starting next week, we’ve got a real treat in store for Colorado MoJo readers. During the late 1920s and early ’30s, a small hut stood at the Boulderfield on Longs Peak, at about 12,750 feet. Guests could hike or ride horseback to the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin, spend the night in relative comfort with bunks and hot meals, and climb the 14,259-foot peak in the morning, usually by the north face, which was equipped in those days with steel cables for hand rails. For two or three years during the early ’30s, Hull Cook worked at the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin, and his feats as a guide and rescuer have become legendary. Now, thanks to his son, Hull “Cactus” Cook from Bellingham, Washington, we are able to bring you Cook’s first-person, never-published tales.
Cook was born in 1911 and grew up in Boulder, not far from the Flatirons. He worked at the Boulderfield during summer breaks from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, which he attended from 1931 through 1935. Cook and the other young climbers living at the Boulderfield were among the first professional mountain guides in the U.S. (He and Ev Long placed the first bolts on the famous east face of the Third Flatiron, hoping to establish a guiding route that never took off.) “My father led a full life after his time on Longs, including many years as a country physician in small-town Nebraska,” Cactus Cook said. “I have no doubt, however, that the acme of his lifetime was those summers spent scampering above timberline on Longs Peak. He, Zumie [Clerin Zumwalt], and my godfather, Ev Long, remained fast friends for life.”
In Hull Cook’s introduction to the stories he called The Boulderfield Hotel: My Recollections of a Legend, he writes, “Some of the events which I have described suggest egotistical bragging…. Maybe I am bragging, but I hasten to concede that everything that we Boulderfield boys did could be equaled or exceeded by almost any determined person who is in top-notch physical condition. Our climbs were actually far less technically difficult than many that are performed almost routinely today…. I make no claim to our being supermen. We were just a bunch of young fellows reveling in the strength and exuberance of youth.”
Many thanks to Cactus Cook for sharing his father’s wonderful tales. We’ll begin publishing chapters from the memoir next Wednesday, continuing each week through the spring.