Tom Ross: Reaching new heights

Tom Ross
Tom Ross

— At age 88, Bob Beverly, of Grand Junction, has a remarkable memory.

On Friday, Beverly moved some members of a packed house at Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs nearly to tears with a couple of carousel trays packed with old Kodachrome slides. But as good as Beverly’s photographs are, it wasn’t his 60-year-old wilderness pictures that brought out the emotions. It was his heartfelt recitation of four or five poems written by his old friend, Charlie “The Birdman” Bowman Hutchins.

With stirring images of Colorado’s highest peaks clicking by on the slide projector, a faraway expression came over Beverly’s face as he intoned the words of the Birdman:

“The timberline we leave behind, and the world rolls into view…”

Beverly was among the earliest modern-day mountain climbers to explore what was then the Mount Zirkel-Dome Wilderness Area, which jumps off just north of Steamboat on Buffalo Pass. He went on to climb all of Colorado’s 56 14,000-foot peaks, and he reached the summit of some of those 14ers more than once.

In the late 1930s, when he was growing up in Steamboat, Beverly recalls The Birdman giving school assemblies where he would sketch a species of bird while whistling its call. Later, The Birdman published pamphlets of poetry inspired by the high mountains.

Inspired themselves, Beverly, 15, and his older brother, Elton, 19, built their own pack frames and loaded them with tarps, blankets and canned sardines before heading up Fish Creek Falls Canyon on their first wilderness adventure.

They climbed all the way to Long Lake and pushed on to Summit Lake on Buffalo Pass before camping for the night. They made it to the base of Mount Ethel on the second day and pushed on over the top to Lost Ranger Peak the third day and Gilpin Lake the fourth, finally descending into Seedhouse. There, they finally reached a telephone to place a reassuring call to their mother, Ruth Beverly.

After college, Beverly returned to make many hikes to his beloved Gilpin Lake and repeatedly summited Big Agnes, Gilpin and Dome peaks as well the jagged crown of Mount Zirkel.

He formed the habit of carrying small seltzer bottles on his climbs and leaving a rolled up piece of paper in the bottle as a form of summit register.

“I returned to Dome Peak five years after I left that bottle up there, and no one had yet left a new signature on it,” he said Friday.

Well Bob, I’m headed up to Mica Basin this weekend, and although I can’t promise I’ll summit Big Agnes, I’ll do my best to climb high enough to glimpse the world “rolling into view.” And I’ll darn sure keep my eyes peeled for an antique seltzer bottle with your autograph tucked inside.

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