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