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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

Five Favorites: Jack Roberts’ Spring Alpine Routes

April 5, 2010 Climb 2 Comments

Jack Roberts begins the cave pitch on Brain Freeze, Rocky Mountain National Park.

As winter’s powder metamorphoses into névé and melt-freeze ice from April though mid-June, couloir and chimney routes in the high mountains come into prime condition. Jack Roberts in Boulder is the author of the Colorado Ice guidebook and is one of Colorado’s most experienced mountain guides. We asked him for his five favorite spring alpine routes, all of which happened to be in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Dreamweaver. For me, Dreamweaver on Mt. Meeker is the perfect high-mountain couloir route. The steep hike to it usually takes three hours. The climbing in the couloir isn’t difficult, but you still need to pay attention. Exposure is constant but never overwhelming. Once you complete the climb, you can either go home or link it up with Martha on Mt. Lady Washington or the Notch Couloir on Longs.  Which is also the beauty of Dreamweaver. You can ascend it and enjoy it for its own merit or you can push your luck.

• Hallett Chimney. An ultimate classic. Forget the fact that it doesn’t always come into the perfect condition that you want for an intermediate mixed alpine route. Forget for a second that the climbing isn’t really very technically demanding. That it is a climb that requires skill and cunning rather than the brute strength and power developed on a campus board. Success on this climb is more dependent on the ability of the experienced leader to figure out how to tread gently on snow/ice and rock when conditions are less than ideal and protection is not always exactly where you would like it to be. But the length of the climb (1,000 feet) comfortable belays, interesting climbing positions, and total alpine feel make this one of the top five alpine routes to do in RMNP. … 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

Thunderbird Avalanche

March 31, 2010 Ski 1 Comment

The Thunderbird and Serpent above Palisade. Photo by Seth Anderson

It’s not often you get good first-hand accounts of serious avalanches. Often the victims are too shaken or chastened by the experience to write about it—or, tragically, they’re unable to write at all. But in the last week we’ve enjoyed superb stories about the serious avalanche accident on Grand Mesa on March 17—from both the victim and his rescuer.

Seth Anderson and Ann Driggers climbed the northwest side of Grand Mesa, early that morning in mid-March. For several years, Anderson, a cofounder of the Grand Junction–based Loki apparel company, had dreamed of skiing the Thunderbird and Serpent formations on the steep walls overlooking Palisade. These bizarre slide paths play into Ute legends of deities living on Grand Mesa; Anderson had written before about these stories and his fascination with the formations. This winter’s heavy snows had covered the slides, making Anderson’s dream seem feasible. … 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 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

Colorado’s Shelf Road , a network of vertical limestone cliffs near Cañon City best known for sunny moderates, has a new 5.13d pitch and may soon get its first 5.14. On Sunday, March 7, Mark Anderson redpointed a striking, super-technical arête at Cactus Cliff that was bolted in the early 1990s but apparently never free-climbed. […]

New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

February 14, 2010

New Route Likely Platte’s Hardest

Jason Haas, who’s working on a new guidebook to South Platte rock climbs, has just redpointed what’s likely the Platte’s hardest pitch, a roof seam that’s protected with removable pro and might be 5.14a. The new route, Comprometido, took about a year and a half to complete. Here, Haas tells the story. While researching routes […]

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Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

March 18, 2010

Brain Freeze on Mt. Otis

In the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, a granite spindle called Zowie protrudes from the convoluted south face of Mt. Otis. Just to Zowie’s left is a zigzagging chimney and gully system that holds an unlikely mixed-climbing gem. Brain Freeze was discovered very recently (early 2008) by Andy Grauch and Chris Sheridan. Several parties […]

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

Two of the wildest and most difficult water-ice pitches in the state are in plain view from Highway 50, en route to Ouray and Telluride from points north, plunging down the sheer face of Grand Mesa. Yet few people notice them, and far fewer have climbed them. The routes are tough, to be sure, but […]

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

By Bob Berwyn Stakeholders in the San Luis Valley have taken a giant step toward protecting Great Sand Dunes National Park from mining, energy development, and water exports. Lexam Explorations has agreed to sell its mineral rights if a $9.7 million deal can be finalized by May. Great Sand Dunes National Park was created by […]

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