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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

The Hull Cook Journals: The Cabin

April 7, 2010 Hike 2 Comments

The Boulderfield Shelter Cabin, at ca. 12,750 feet on Longs Peak. This European-style mountain hut served meals and housed guests from 1927 to 1936.

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

“Hooray, the Boulderfield at last! Level ground for a change.” That was the average climber’s reaction as he topped the final rounded rise of ground, high above Granite Pass, and beheld the nearly square-mile basin of jumbled rock that was the Boulderfield. He could now enjoy an unobstructed view of the famous Keyhole and the entire North Face. He was more than 12,000 feet above sea level. But where was the hotel? Then someone would see the distant small cube of granite masonry that was the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin.

“Don’t tell me that’s the hotel! That cracker box surely can’t be a hotel!” But it was.

As hotels go, ours was tiny and Spartan. We called it “the cabin.” There was no electricity and no running water, unless you ran while carrying it from the spring. There was also almost no privacy. It was a two-story structure, the upper floor accessed by a ladder hinged to the ceiling of the ground-floor room. By Hilton standards it was indeed small, only 14 by 18 feet, so the space had to be efficiently utilized. Upstairs, springs and mattresses were placed directly on the floor, three on each side of the stair hole, and above the stair hole was a double-decker single bed. This arrangement could accommodate 14 people in relative comfort, unless someone had to go to the bathroom during the night, in which case comfort might be called into question. … Continue Reading

The Hull Cook Journals

April 2, 2010 Climb, Hike 6 Comments

Hull Cook at Chasm View on Longs Peak. Photo by H.P. Ziedema

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. … Continue Reading

Truly Tested: Stoic Bombshell

March 25, 2010 Climb, Hike, Ski No Comments

Cold day at Hidden Valley, RMNP. Photo by Doug Schnitzspahn

By Dougald MacDonald

I’ve been wearing the Bombshell Jacket, the flagship waterproof-breathable shell from Backcountry.com’s new Stoic line, for much of this winter. And after months of backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and a bit of ice climbing, I’m definitely impressed.

At first, I wasn’t at all psyched with the jacket’s fit. At a trailhead in the Indian Peaks, as I pulled on the coat, my female skiing partner gave me that look I know oh-too-well from my wife—the look that says: “You’re not going to wear that, are you?” Don’t get me wrong: The jacket looks sharp. Mine is black with turquoise highlights, and the cut and detailing are fine. The problem is the super-trim fit around the waist, which would have looked great when I was a 145-pounder in college but looks and feels a bit snug as a 162-pounder (OK, 164-pounder).

I almost always wear a medium jacket, and the Bombshell fit me perfectly in the chest, shoulders, and arms; if I sized up, I think there would be too much fabric bunched around these areas. I grew to appreciate the trim cut on long ski tours and while climbing; the jacket fit great under a harness, for example. But it limits your options for layering. If you wear your jacket as a true shell, over multiple insulating layers, think about a larger size. If you wear the shell over light inner layers while moving and throw a puffy over the top when you stop, as I increasingly do, this fit might be perfect. If you’re just thinking about taking up ski touring to lose a few years of accumulated paunch, consider another coat.

Despite my quibbles about the fit, the Bombshell hits nearly every other note perfectly. … Continue Reading

Skurka Begins 4,700-Mile Odyssey

March 15, 2010 Hike 1 Comment

Boulder-based uber-hiker Andrew Skurka has begun his 6.5-month, 4,720-mile journey around Alaska and the Yukon, by skis, foot, and pack raft, almost entirely off-trail, through some of North America’s most rugged wilderness. On Saturday, Skurka landed in Kotzebue, Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle, and yesterday he began skiing southward toward the Iditarod Trail. Forecast high: –15°F. If all goes well, he’ll return to Kotzebue around the end of September, having averaged more than 23 miles per day. Surely one of the most ambitious outdoor adventures ever conceived.

Buzz Burrell has posted a good story and short interview with Skurka at his Adventure Running blog. And you can follow The Man himself through updates at Twitter. What do you think? Can he do it?

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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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A Fine Line on Arrowhead

March 26, 2010

A Fine Line on Arrowhead

Climbers Scotty Nelson and Gil Weiss have discovered (or maybe rediscovered) a great-looking moderate mixed route in Rocky Mountain National Park that might take pressure off overcrowded climbs like Dream Weaver or Martha. The line, which they called Deborah, splits the south face of Arrowhead above the high bench to the west of Black Lake […]

Shelf Road’s Hardest Route Climbed

March 10, 2010

Shelf Road’s Hardest Route Climbed

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New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

February 14, 2010

New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

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Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

March 18, 2010

Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

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Lake Agnes–Seven Utes Loop

February 19, 2010

Lake Agnes–Seven Utes Loop

Kevin Landolt is a skier/climber/student, based in Fort Collins, who writes the fun Alpine Ambition blog for the Mountain Shop. Here, Kevin describes a favorite midwinter ski tour near Cameron Pass offering a little of everything. Trailhead: Lake Agnes Road, 2.5 miles west of Cameron Pass Tour Distance: 7.3 miles Total Vert: ca. 2,900′ Season: […]

Mr. and Mrs. Mesa

January 28, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Mesa

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East Ridge of Mt. Bancroft

December 28, 2009

East Ridge of Mt. Bancroft

Mt. Bancroft’s rocky east ridge is a terrific mountaineering adventure for Front Range climbers, beginning less than an hour from Denver. The 13,250-foot peak is relatively close to the road, and avalanche danger can be easily managed, making this perhaps the most accessible technical winter summit on the entire Front Range. The east ridge offers […]


Rarities: Wolf Moon, Arapaho Peaks

February 5, 2010

Rarities: Wolf Moon, Arapaho Peaks

Photographer James Beissel sent us this fantastic dawn-patrol shot of the full moon setting over South and North Arapaho in the Indian Peaks, shot from Flagstaff Mountain. Said Beissel: “The first full moon of the New Year is often called the Wolf Moon. The name comes from Native American culture, in which it was associated with […]

New Deal for Great Sand Dunes

January 20, 2010

New Deal for Great Sand Dunes

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