Longs Peak-A History
Longs Peak, the 14,259-foot mountain dominating the landscape above Estes Park, is a coveted destination for hikers and climbers from all over the world. Longs Peak also has one of the most colorful histories of any of North America’s mountains. On Saturday, August 22 at 1:00 p.m., avid Longspeaker Dr. Jim Detterline will present an overview of the history of Longs Peak, illustrated with color slides, at the Lake Shore Lodge Conference Center. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend this informative presentation, and share in a free ice-cream social afterwards.
Longs Peak has attracted human beings to its heights ever since the glaciers receded from its flanks 11,000 years ago, and early archaic culture people ventured forth to hunt with their Clovis and later, Folsom points. Within more historical times, the local Arapaho tribe claimed ascents of Longs Peak and the construction of a summit eagle trap. But the first recorded ascent of Longs Peak was led by one-armed Civil War veteran Major John Wesley Powell on August 23, 1868.
The mountain then attracted numerous colorful characters such as “Rocky Mountain” Jim Nugent, Victorian English writer Isabella Bird, the Reverend Elkanah Lamb, father of Rocky Mountain National Park Enos Mills, and many others. Guided trips were the theme of the earlier days on Longs Peak, but the guided climbs reached their Golden Age after the death of well-known local climber Agnes Vaille following her first winter ascent of the East Face in January 1925. The Boulder Field Inn and other concessions to park tourists were built mainly as a reaction to her death. But the Boulder Field Inn and its colorful young guides such as Clerin “Zumie” Zumwalt, Hull Cook, and Ev Long only lasted until 1937, when the hidden glacier beneath the Boulder Field pulled apart the wall of the two-story inn, such that it needed to be dynamited.
After World War Ii and the advances in American mountaineering that resulted from the 10th Mountain Division, a new cast of characters arrived at Longs Peak to push up the standards of rock climbing, such as Tom Hornbein’s difficult lead of Zumie’s Thumb in 1951. By 1960, the most intimidating face on Longs Peak, the 1800-foot world-class “Diamond,” was conquered by Bob Kamps and Dave Rearick. Standards and challenges have increased on Longs Peak and the Diamond since that landmark route D1 was established by Kamps and Rearick, but the tragedies of rescue have also continued throughout the history of the peak. This program will cover some of the most interesting tragedies, as well as the triumphs, of Longs Peak history.