Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

open spot at some distance from any rocks to give him his first lessons. The major held the halter and I mounted. The mule protested most vigorously against the unaccustomed burden, and I no less vigorously shouted "Whoa! whoa!" at him. As we returned to camp in triumph, I mounted and the major leading, he complimented me highly on the staying qualities I had manifested, but reminded me that the mule did not understand my language and that my noisy "whoaing" had in no way contributed to the successful result. Our party went in saddle to Denver, then a city of 7,000 or 8,000 people. Thence we went up to Empire City. Here we were joined by W. N. Byers, editor of the Rocky Mountain News, a prominent citizen of Colorado and a most estimable gentleman. We crossed the main range over Berthoud's pass into Middle Park and camped at Hot Springs, on the Grand river. While in camp there Schuyler Colfax and Samuel Bowles of the Springfield (Mass.) Republican, visited us, staying several days. While in Middle Park, Long's Peak was continually before our eyes and in our thoughts.

Before leaving Illinois it was understood that whatever else we might or might not accomplish, we would ascend the peak. That was something that had never been done, though many attempts had been made. The old mountaineers had fun at our expense. They said nothing could get there that didn't have wings. The idea of a bunch of tenderfeet coming out and trying to do a thing like that was ridiculous! Finally we went up and camped at Grand Lake. The city at that time consisted of one or two log cabins Occupied by trappers. The lake itself, however, was densely populated. I will not subject the faith of those who know me in my veracity

by stating the number of speckled trout I saw caught there in an hour on a single hook. Here several of us organized a squad to ascend the Peak. We rode horses and took one or two pack animals. We went along the north side of the lake, through fallen trees, with the utmost conceivable difficulty. After going for two days we camped at the westward base of what is now known as Mount McKinstry, or McHenry, the first peak west and about three miles distant from Long's Peak. From here, the following morning, having corraled and left our animals, we proceeded on foot.

After being baffled in various attempts we came to a ridge ascending from the west, which appeared to connect with and lead to the summit. We followed this, stringing along for a distance of half a mile. Jack Sumner, an old mountaineer and brother-in-law of Mr. Byers, was in advance; I was next, at a far stone-throw distance. The ridge grew narrower and narrower. Finally I approached where Jack was sitting down. I called to him, "Hello, Jack; what's the matter?" He replied, "By G, I haven't lost any mountain." I told him I had, and without hesitation I walked over the narrow place. It was not to exceed eighteen inches in width, and to have fallen on either side would have changed altitude hundreds of feet, though of course the descent was not perpendicular. After seeing me pass he said he could go anywhere I could, and he did, but he got down and "cooned" it.

Then we waited until the others came up. They all passed over the narrow place, and we proceeded some way when we came where further progress was impossible. We then retraced our steps, and descending went into camp on the south side of the Peak, in what is now known

8

as the Wild Basin. This was about
two o'clock in the afternoon. The
"Notch," which is so conspicuous a
feature of the Peak, extends down
the southerly side as far as and be-
yond timber line. We camped where
there was plenty of timber for fires,
intending to make an early start the
next morning. As we stood there
loking upward and speculating as
to the probabilities of our success
the next day, a place met our eyes,
about a third of the way up, which
appeared as though it might not be
impassable. I told them that as I
was not at all tired, I would go that
afternoon in light marching order
and reconnoiter. It seemed useless
for the entire party to waste its time
the next morning if the place on the
mountain was impassable. So I set
out, leaving blanket and barometer
and other impedimenta behind.
When I got to the difficult place I
found a way around it, but there was
another a little farther which seem-
ed doubtful, so I went on and found
a way past that also.

was the summit,
Then there
temptingly near. I was closer than
any mortal had ever been before!
Wouldn't it be a bully thing to go
ahead and get a scoop on the other
boys? I went ahead, into and
through the Notch; the distance is
only a few yards, not to exceed
twenty or twenty-five, as I now re-
member. At the northerly edge of
the Notch, Estes Park was before
me for the first time. I wondered
at and admired the view but for an
instant; the summit of that peak
seemed very close, and that was
what I was after. I started up on
the Estes Park side, using hands and
feet, and traveling along where it
would seem utterly impossible to go
when viewed from Long's Peak Inn.
All was well until I paused and
looked down to my right on Estes
Park. There, not to exceed ten feet

A

I

below and away from me, was what
seemed to be the eaves of the world's
roof. I looked to my left toward
camp, but the still unascended Peak
was now between me and that.
lonesome feeling came over me.
started back. As any one who has
had experience in that kind of
climbing will know, descent was far
more difficult. I proceeded, keeping
farther away from those eaves than
when I went up, and where the way
was more difficult. Finally I got
where I could let go without slip-
ping over, and dropped a short dis-
tance onto an ice formation in the
northwest corner of the floor of the
Notch. I feel quite sure that ice has
not yet melted away. Of that occa-
sion I will say this: never before and
never since have I so completely lost
I was trembling from
all nerve.
head to foot.

After congratulating myself upon
the fact that I had not become a per-
manent occupant of Estes Park, the
next thing was to get back to camp.
To my dismay, I saw the sun was
getting low and those two difficult
places must be passed before it went
down. This was accomplished, but
darkness fell and camp was at quite
a distance. The party had become
alarmed, and Major Powell had sent
Jack Sumner up the mountain carry-
ing bundles of dry sticks to kindle
beacon fires. To see his fires and
hear him hallooing were pleasing in-
cidents of the return trip. It was
about ten o'clock when I reached
camp. I well know that the reports
of a "last survivor," who after the
lapse of half a century tells of oc-
currences in which he participated,
are ordinarily to be received with
some allowance, but a full account
of these incidents, including the part
taken by me, was written at the time
by Mr. Byers and appeared in the
Rocky Mountain News within a
week after the occurrence. The ar-

1

ticle was republished in full a year names in a baking-powder can.
or so ago in The Trail, a monthly
magazine published in Denver.

That night we camped under a shelving slab or rock leaning to the south. It was quite cold. We spread our blankets under the incline and kept fires burning in front. There was not room for the entire party under the rock. When those on the outside got tired of being out in the cold they replenished the fires so as to make it too hot for those under the rock. In this way there was more or less alternating between those within and those without during the night.

One incident may be mentioned. Major Powell, though one-armed, insisted on doing his stint the same. as the rest, even in "packing." At the camp where we left our horses he said, "This is my time to make the bread." I insisted on taking his place, but he would not consent. I carry with me always the picture of the major paddling with his one hand in the sticky dough. But he made the biscuits, such as they were. When we put our names in the can, one of these biscuits was put in also, with the statement that this was placed in the can "as an everlasting memento of Major Powell's skill in bread making." As we were about to leave the Major thought that was hardly up to the dignity of the occasion, and the biscuit was taken out. We insisted that his real reason was he did not want future generations to know how poor a bread maker so good a mountain climber was.

The biscuit was of the kind which when cut with a sharp knife would show a fine-grained, smooth, dark-colored surface. Candor compels me to say that the biscuit would not have been different if he had let me take his place.

Early the next morning seven of our members, including myself, started up. We followed the line of my ascent the day before, going along the downward continuation of the Notch until we got within a few hundred feet of the Notch proper. Then we obliqued to the left until we reached the line now followed by those who ascend by going through the Keyhole from Estes Park, and made the final ascent at the same place where it is now made. There were no indications of any prior ascents. In making this ascent Mr. Byers and I both carried barometers. He was so unfortunate as to break his in climbing. I took the necessary readings, from which, in connection with the complete series taken in the days following in the immediate vicinity, I determined the altitude of the Peak to within twenty-five feet of what has since been found to be correct. For some reason, as yet I believe unexplained, barometer readings go, as it were in waves, with about eight days between crest and crest. For this reason the several readings I had taken on the summit did not furnish the data necessary The ascent was made on the 23d for a correct determination. Before of August, 1868. The names of those leaving the summit we erected a who made the party were: Maj. J. monument, in which we placed our W. Powell, Capt. W. H .Powell, a

As we were about to leave the summit Major Powell took off his hat and made a little talk. He said, in substance, that we had now accomplished an undertaking in the material or physical field which had hitherto been deemed impossible, but that there were mountains more formidable in other fields of effort which were before us, and expressed the hope and predicted that what we had that day accomplished was but the but the augury of yet greater achievements in such other fields.

10

brother of the Major, Wm. N. Byers, John C. Sumner, Samuel Garman, Ned E. Farrell and myself. I am the only survivor. There were several others along, but they did not attempt the ascent.

We then returned to where we had left our horses, at the foot of Mount McKinstry. The names of our party were found by those who next made the ascent several years later, and were published in the Denver papers.

I well recall a remark Powell once made about the allowance which should be made when an account is given of a noteworthy event by the sole survivor. He never understates his own part in the transaction. I therefore quote from the account given at the time by Mr. Byers in the Rocky Mountain News, which reappears in the Denver Trail, October, 1914, which is as follows:

"Some explorations were made, however, preparatory to tomorrow's labor; the most important by Mr. Keplinger, who ascended to within about 800 feet of the summit and did not return until after dark. We became

sheeting for covering. We remained
there for eight days and nights, tak-
ing barometrical readings. Once
every hour readings of the barom-
eter were taken, together with wet
and dry bulb readings of the ther-
mometer. I took from twelve mid-
night until twelve noon, and Mr.
Garman took the readings the sec-
One of us would go down every day
ond half of the twenty-four hours.
or so to timber line to do a little
cooking. We were in mountain soli-
tudes, a quarter of a mile above tim-
ber line, and the occasion remains
vividly impressed in my memory.
Thunder and lightning and mag-
nificent storms were about, above
and below us. There was one heavy
snowfall. This was the highest com-
plete series of barometrical readings
that had then been taken. My read-
ings were reported to the Smithson-
ian, and can be found there now.
After completing this task we re-
turned to Grand Lake, and found
our party had gone down to Hot
Springs. There was no one at the

very uneasy about him, fearing that he Springs but a trapper, who occupied

would be unable to make his way down in safety. A man was sent to meet him and bonfires were kindled on some high rocks An hour after dark they came in, Mr. K. with the report that the ascent might be possible, but he was not very sanguine."

near us.

The "they" refers to myself and Sumner, who kindled the bonfires. The 800 feet mentioned by Mr. Byers referred to the line of travel. Mr. Enos Mills, who is familiar with the situation, assures me that by direct line I was within 200 feet of the summit.

I, with Mr. Samuel Garman, a student of the Illinois State Normal (who since became a professor in some southern college) as my assistant, established ourselves on the summit of Mount McHenry, which, as before stated, is the first mountain west of Long's Peak. We carried up little poles, over which we spread

a cabin, where he expected to remain during the winter. Soon after we reached Grand Lake a courier arrived from our party with orders for us to come down to the Springs at once, but to keep a sharp lookout; that the Utes were on the warpath and were likely to meet us. We went immediately, and we kept a sharp lookout, but met no Indians.

We

ten

reached the Springs about
reached
o'clock, when we were saluted with
"Who comes there?" by the pickets
Powell had stationed.

Though subsequently changed, Major Powell's plan then was to go some three hundred miles west of the main range and establish winter quarters for a portion of the party somewhere on the Colorado or som of its tributaries, and then procee next season with his explorations o

the Grand Canyon. A French engineer, Berthoud, had passed through ne! that region some fifteen or twenty years before, trying to find a location for a stage route. We were to follow his trail, and in the main we did. None of our party had had exMperience in that kind of camp life. We knew nothing about mountaineering, and most of us could hardly cinch a saddle, to say nothing about "packing." It was thought best to associate with us a couple of experts in that line. We did so, procuring two experienced mountaineers who had passed one winter as trappers west of the main range. It was a difficult matter to follow the old Berthoud trail. The plan was to send a portion of the party on in advance with all the pack animals loaded, and have some of them return with the pack animals for the rest of the party. Captain Powell, a brother of the Major, went with the advance. I also, as well as these two experts, together with some of the younger members of the party, accompanied him. We had a copy of a chart made by Berthoud showing latitude at various points and other features. remember one point he marked "Rattlesnake Camp." His journal said, "Look out for snakes." He stated the very large number of snakes his party had killed. But they must have killed all, for we saw none. We found the utmost difficulty in following the old trail, and as an aid almost every evening I determined latitude by sextant observations. The diary of the trip kept by Mr. Allen, a Wesleyan student and member of our party, contains this entry, under September 11:

I

"Last night Keplinger took an observation on a star in Scorpio and found we were in latitude 40:21 (the figures showing the minutes are indistinct). He said if the map which we had was correct we would strike the trail in about three miles, and so we did."

.

We again lost the trail on the 12th and traveled several miles in a northerly direction, relying on the assurances of our two experts, who maintained they knew exactly where we were. Subsequent event showed that they did, but that we didn't. That night I again took observations, and as a result I asserted with the utmost confidence that we were entirely off the trail and that we were several miles north of any point marked on the Berthoud chart. Against the earnest protests of our experts it was determined that next morning there should be no further going north unless we found the trail.. But when next morning came we found that one of our mountaineers, Gus Lanken by name, was missing, together with two of our best pack animals, heavily laden with provisions. What to do was the question We spent the next day hunting for Gus. He was entirely familiar with the locality, and we did not find him, though we found a cabin where he and his pal had passed the previous winter trapping. It was apparent that they were still trapping, and that we ourselves were the intended game.

The following morning the party started back. I undertook to take a nigh cut back to the deer trail we followed, but came onto a ravine. I could not cross, so I lost considerable time and got behind the rest of the party about a mile. They were going over an open space or park two or three miles in length and about as wide. I heard a shot, and saw two of our men galloping back to the party, which had stopped. When I

came up and asked what was happening they told me that two of the party had ridden off near the foot of the mountain, which was the northerly boundary of the open space, and had been fired on by Gus, who was at the mouth of a ravine or depression

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »