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The Hull Cook Journals: An Unforgettable Rescue

May 12, 2010 Climb, Hike 1 Comment

Hull Cook at Chasm View, where his most dramatic rescue on Longs Peak began. Photo by H.P. Ziedema

Hull Cook worked as a climbing guide at the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin, at 12,750 feet on Longs Peak, during the summers of 1932, 1933, and 1934. These are his stories.

Fatalities on the peak were depressing, even though they were beyond our realm of responsibility. One day some frightened youths rushed into the cabin with the unwelcome news that one of their group had fallen. They indicated that he had apparently mistaken the Transom, or False Keyhole, for the real Keyhole. When they saw him fall, they had backed off and regained the usual route.

I hastened to the spot where I expected the body to lodge, the long ledge about 100 feet below the Transom that slopes down to the Agnes Vaile shelter hut. Here, indeed, was the crumpled body of a youth in his late teens. I wondered why he had fallen. The descent from the Transom is not technically difficult. Then I noticed a large box camera nearby. Perhaps it had hampered his descent.

As soon as I had determined there was no doubt about his being dead, I hoisted him up on my shoulder for the half-mile carry back to the cabin. A step away from where his body had lodged the ledge is very narrow, and as I swung around to head downward, the boy’s big climbing boots struck the rock wall, pushing me outward. Off balance, I stared down the near-vertical cliff at the rocks over 300 feet below, and I thought, “I’m going to have to throw him overboard to regain my balance, or we’ll both go over.” Thoughts come fast at such a time. I remembered then that his face was undamaged. What a pity it would be to smash it on those rocks. I teetered apprehensively, straining every muscle to regain stability while the debate—“to toss or not to toss” raged in my head. Moments that seemed like minutes passed until I finally rocked back to a safer stance, and could begin the sad trek down to the cabin. … Continue Reading

Tested: La Sportiva’s Ganda Shoe

May 11, 2010 Climb, Hike No Comments

By Rob Coppolillo

Initial reports indicated that La Sportiva—the Italian maker of boots and shoes whose North American HQ is in Boulder—had a new approach rig called the Gandalf, presumably named after the king-honch sorcerer in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. By the time I spied a look at ’em, they’d been renamed the Ganda, so we can reasonably assume a few lawyers made some dough and the folks at La Sportiva had to rename the shoe.

The good news is the Ganda is a work of art. We’ve grown to expect nothing less from La Sportiva’s Italian-crafted footwear: tight, regular stitching; supple leather; a stellar fit; an innovation or two; and plain-old kick-butt performance.

The Ganda’s downsides? Well, the euro hasn’t fully released its stranglehold on the dollar, and paying skilled craftsmen (and providing health care!) isn’t cheap, so the shoe ain’t either: $215 for a pair. The Ganda also feels a tad clunky (14.74 oz/418g) at first—but there’s a method to the design, and by the end of a week of thrashing around in them, I was sold on the construction. … Continue Reading

The Hull Cook Journals: Youth

April 29, 2010 Climb, Hike 1 Comment

Hull Cook (left) and Clerin Zumwalt horsing around on the cabin walls. Each morning the guides used to shout, "Indian's a-comin'!" as they spotted the first hikers at the edge of the Boulderfield.

Hull Cook worked as a climbing guide at the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin, at 12,750 feet on Longs Peak, during the summers of 1932, 1933, and 1934. These are his stories.

Bathing facilities at Boulderfield were limited. Usually we stood with one foot in each of two wash pans of warm, soapy water, with a third wash pan between the other two to help catch run-off, an arrangement that would have been less efficient in the case of a female bather. A kettle of clean water was placed nearby for rinsing off the soap. Bathing was sometimes interrupted by the unexpected arrival of tourists, who usually barged right in without knocking, thereby creating an entertaining scramble for cover.

After the brief but heavy afternoon rain showers that are frequent in the mountains, we would often reach the cabin drenched, and wish to change into dry clothes, only to find the place crowded with tourists seeking shelter. My wife believes that this is where I lost my modesty, because we boys changed to dry clothes, crowds or not. We would step to a corner of the room, and while facing away from the people, we would peel down to the bare facts and dry off. Women showed surprise, shock, and embarrassment until, seemingly reassured by our confident composure, their discomfort was usually converted to amusement.

When no overnight guests were present, Zumie [Clerin Zumwalt, another guide] often enjoyed starting the day by flinging open the heavy front door, stepping outside, and shouting as loudly as he could, “Hello, world!” And for this brief ritual Zum felt that the appropriate attire was complete nudity. … Continue Reading

Introducing: Hallett Peak’s East Buttress

April 23, 2010 Climb No Comments

Hallett Peak's east buttress, from the east ridge of Flattop, March 21. Photo by Dougald MacDonald

By Eli Helmuth, Climbing Life Guides

Tyndall Gorge has long been a favorite destination in Rocky Mountain National Park for high-quality backcountry skiing, ice testpieces such as the Squid, abundant bouldering, and classic big-wall cragging on Hallett’s north buttress. Easily accessed from the Bear Lake parking lot, the Tyndall is truly a mountain playground for all seasons and interests. But few climbers explore beyond the crowded classics. One of my favorite alpine play spots in the park is the east buttress of Hallett Peak—specifically the many little-known moderate mixed climbs on the north face of this couloir-striped buttress. And we’re just getting into prime season for these fun spring mixed routes. … Continue Reading

The Hull Cook Journals: Pack Burros

April 14, 2010 Climb, Hike 1 Comment

The pack burro Jake on an early-summer trip up trail.

Hull Cook worked at the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin on Longs Peak during the summers of 1932, 1933, and 1934. These are his stories.

The Boulderfield Hotel, or shelter, or cabin, whatever you may call it, was constructed in 1926 and 1927 by the National Park Service, and was operated during its 10-year existence by the Colliers. The construction was not an easy task. Everything but the actual rock had to be laboriously packed in on horses or mules over a very rough and rocky six-mile trail at high altitude. I believe Jack Moomaw, an early park ranger and guide, supervised the construction of the trail across the Boulderfield to the hotel site, which enabled pack mules and horses to negotiate this jumble of rocks without suffering broken legs. The workmen stayed at Timberline Cabin, so a good part of their day was spent in hiking the three miles each way to and from Boulderfield.

Problems, of course, arose later, some of which were quite unexpected. For example, one would not expect a small, rugged granite building to be easily pulled apart. Yet a little of that happened each year. Cracks up to a half-inch in width in walls and floor would open up, necessitating a caulking job every spring. To account for this instability, I believe that there must be an underground, glacier-like ice flow that is constantly replenished by seepage from the Dove snowfield.

Wind was another problem, its effects having been underestimated. The first winter was educational. The whole roof went off, smashed, dismembered, and scattered for miles. The cabin became a large solid block of hard-packed snow enclosed in granite walls, a rather discouraging spring discovery. To avoid a repetition of this disaster, the new roof was reinforced with small logs laid horizontally on the gabled roof, and held down with a row of head-sized boulders above each log. … Continue Reading

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Recent Comments

  • Jamie Jones: The secret chute was only a secret top all you easterners....
  • Jeff: Awesome!!!! Are they ever going to be published in book form! These stories need to be made into a movie!!!!...
  • Karen D McCall: What a story, I read every word, absolutely enthralled. As an aging outdoor enthusiast headed for hip replacement, I can...
  • Kirk Miller: New rats in the Platte. Well done sir....
  • Dale: I met Clerin Zumwalt hiking on the Long's Peak trail back in the 1990's. He was with his family and was wearing his RMNP...
  • Ben Collett: Dougald, I miss the updates on this site. Anyway, there is a great route on the 4th Flatiron (see MP.com for details) th...
  • Tim: Thanks for the great writeup. We just did this loop yesterday and had a blast. Do you know if anyone has skied the coulo...
  • 14er Sports: Awesome accomplishment!...
  • Kailas: Yes Wick there are that many people. And they are all from back east or Texass... booooo. I've skied up here for ove...
  • jeff: What amazing experiences Dr. Cook had. I feel so fortunate that I've found this website and have been able to enjoy Dr. ...

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