By Randy Pierce
This winter, Quinn and I plan to undertake some hikes of the 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire. Hiking them in the winter is vastly different than other times of the year, but promises to be equally rewarding. Experiencing them in a different season will help our appreciation for hiking these incredible mountains grow in new ways. It will also give us conditioning and experience to help with the upcoming 2020 Vision Quest hikes during the spring and summer.
In our undertaking of these winter hikes, we are following in the footsteps of those who have gone down this path before, both human and canine. In this realization, there is also some sadness for those who have also done so and are no longer with us.
Through the online forum “Views from the Top,” a gathering point for the hiking community where we’ve shared a great deal and gained much support for our efforts, we have become familiar with the tales of Brutus and Kevin Rooney. Brutus, a Newfoundland Dog, was the first dog recorded to have finished the Winter 48. With considerable planning by his handler Kevin Rooney, he did it a second time in a single winter. This is a tremendous accomplishment and earned Brutus considerable and well deserved distinction. He and Kevin found a route up Owl’s Head which is now commonly called the “Brutus Bushwhack” since it is the best route to avoid the challenges of the Owl’s Head Slide. Over the last decade, Brutus became a well-known and beloved fixture of the White Mountain climbing community.
A dog’s life span is unfortunately considerably shorter than our own, and Brutus’s storied life came to an end this past week. A memorial on the “Views from the Top” forum is a pages-long tribute to the many who appreciated this beloved animal. The stories and photographs represent the bonds of community which can enhance all of our lives when developed well.
I know when the hikes are right for Quinn by how eagerly his tail is wagging when he approaches them. Brutus’s example shows clearly that these are reasonable climbs for a dog. Quinn has more mental challenges in the process since he is leading me (Brutus was not a guide dog), but Quinn is eager to follow in Brutus’s impressive pawprints. I never knew Brutus personally, but I know the thrill of companionship and teamwork involved in accomplishing goals together. I also know a fair bit of the wonder of the White Mountains, and without question I know the incredible love, devotion, and fun of sharing our lives with an incredible dog.
My heart goes out to Kevin Rooney and all who loved Brutus, but I firmly believe that the experiences and memories we keep are always our immediate “rainbow bridge” of connection to those we have lost. Thank you to Brutus and Kevin for your vision and for sharing it with us all along the way!
For another tribute to Brutus, check out the blog of Steve Smith, owner of Mountain Wanderer Map and Bookstore and friend of Kevin Rooney and Brutus.