Mt. Elbert: Will Its Name Change?
Colorado’s Tallest Towers Over Leadville Today
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
It’s probably only a matter of time before Mt. Elbert finds itself in the crosshairs. In fact, at yesterday’s Orientation Meeting for the recently established Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board (CGNAB), the group identified the first 15 features petitioned for renaming, and it seems like Elbert inched a bit closer to the chopping block. If for no other reason than guilt-by-association to Gov John Evans, whose geographical mount is under currently under review. However, should you read Samuel Elbert’s biographical account, it’s easy to see where the red flags appear motivated by his own political power, prompting 19th-century deals that don’t fare well in today’s 21st-century cultural climate. But for now, Elbert stands.
However, it’s not the first time Colorado’s tallest peak at 14,443′ has found itself the target of a name takeover. So, come along as Leadville Today unpacks some news from the mountaintop – the highest one, the one in Lake County’s backyard, the one called Elbert. From a feature about the man who bears its name to an overview of the most recent name challenges which rallied local voices to fend off a not-so-friendly offense from an East Coast College to a #goodnews update from the folks at Colorado Fourteener Initiative, it’s time to get informed and stay plugged into that pyramid-shaped peak: Mt. Elbert.
The Battles of 1998 and 2015
It was back in January 2015 when an application with the United States Board on Geographic Names was filed to have a 14,134-foot geographical feature in Lake County, Colorado, named Mount William and Mary. The location which is formally named “South Elbert” is where the College of William and Mary has done extensive high-altitude research. The educational institution first sought to have the feature near Colorado’s highest summit – Mount Elbert – named Mount William and Mary in 1998. But it ran into opposition from some in the state who said the college didn’t have a strong enough connection to Colorado.
The re-naming of South Elbert resurfaced again in 2015 when the College re-submitted its application. By then, the communication landscape had changed and the internet played a heavy hand in the second attempt. A successful social media effort led by Leadville native son Eddie Camp helped to convince the Committee to decline the 2015 application. Since then, Elbert has stood quietly proud over Leadville’s backyard for the past five years. Until this summer when caught in the crossfire of the re-naming frenzy, Colorado’s 14ers have been hauled up to the sacrificial altar with the first three peaks already identified by Gov. Polis’s recently established CGNAB.
Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board
It was just yesterday, September 17, 2020 that the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board met for its Orientation Meeting. Established in July 2020 their mission statement reads: “to evaluate proposals concerning name changes, new names, and name controversies of geographic features and certain public places in the State of Colorado and then making official recommendations to the Governor.”
Earlier this month the names of the first 15 geographical features up for review were announced. Among them is Mount Evans, named after Colorado Governor John Evans. Of course, Evans’s leadership role during the infamous Sand Creek Massacre in Denver has the historic politician fighting his own battle to keep claim over noteworthy Mount Evans, among countless other features, streets, and businesses that bear his name. And if Evans tumbles, Elbert might be close behind, if nothing more than by association.
You see, Elbert was married to Evans’s daughter. But as readers can see in this story of Mt. Elbert by LT Contributor Brennan Ruegg (2016), this Colorado Governor has his own challenges ahead as the CGNAB group comprised of 15 (mostly) Front-Rangers make determinations that will have far-reaching historic and economic impacts to the rural areas and high country communities that these features reside near. Any idea how many things bear the Evans name across the state? And what about Elbert in Lake County? From trailer parks to motocross parks, while changing the name of a mountain might seem like an easy, socially conscientious decision to make, rebranding a business puts one more heavy weigh on the tipping scale of small business success. This could be a real up-hill-climb, better pull on your hiking boots, and stay tuned.
UPDATE: The following videos are from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources YouTube Channel and cover the CGNAB group’s Orientation Meeting held on September 17, 2020. Most of it involves board introductions and protocols about how the group will operate and report to the Governor, but details can be viewed as follows
Cruising at an Altitude of 14,ooo Feet
The Colorado Fourteener Initiative’s (CFI) high country work season is winding down and there’s reason to celebrate success, particularly with one trail right close to home. So thanks to Brian Sargeant, Development and Communications Manager with 14ers.org the non-profit whose mission it is to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Colorado’s fifty-four 14,000 -foot peaks —the “Fourteeners”— through active stewardship and public education,” for the most recent information regarding Colorado peaks .
The recent first measurable snowfall of the season means that summer trail projects are quickly winding down. Colorado Fourteener Initiative’s (CFI) crews pulled out of their backcountry basecamps across the state ahead of the early season snow storm in early September. Soon they will hike back to their worksites to begin derigging and packing out for the year. Despite numerous obstacles, including a global pandemic, wildfires, and CFI’s first summer working without many volunteers, the non-profit had one of its most productive field seasons ever.
- Two large-scale trail construction projects are complete after more than four years on each peak. One is on Mount Elbert, the other Mount Columbia
- CFI’s two-person crew on Grays and Torreys made significant progress retaining the rapidly eroding soils on the upper stretches of the trail above 13,500-ft.
- The Lake City crew performed maintenance on five trails on both Forest Service and BLM-managed peaks.
- CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak teams worked eight-day hitches to focus efforts on priority areas at high elevations and remote locations where work in prior years was not possible with volunteers.
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is fortunate that their employees stayed healthy this summer and grateful that supporters from across the nation, have continued to back their efforts. As usual, the work does not stop when the tools have been stored and trucks are parked. CFI’s office staff will shift focus in the coming months to produce and distribute their annual mailing, write various grants and reports, and continue to plan and fundraise for future projects.
How to Help? Take This Survey
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative team is assessing its priorities for trail reconstruction and maintenance projects going into the 2021 field season. CFI soon will be applying for a two-year maintenance grant from the Colorado State Trails Program that will fund our Adopt-a-Peak maintenance crew. Please take 10 minutes to complete the survey and ensure CFI is in sync with the 14er hiking community regarding trail maintenance and reconstruction priorities. In thanks for your help answering this survey, CFI will randomly select 10 people who complete the survey to receive either a CFI logo trucker hat or a CFI logo neck gaiter (both one size fits all).
How Many Hikers in 2019?
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative team has been studying hiking use on Colorado’s 14,000-foot peak using infrared trail counters since 2014. In 2019, CFI placed 22 thermal counters monitoring traffic on 23 peaks across the state. This year, CFI released the fourth iteration of our report that estimates that Colorado’s 14ers experienced 288,000 hiker use days last season.
The number of people climbing a fourteener in Colorado last year plunged by 18.4 percent due to the record snowpack in the spring of 2019. Lingering snowpack and avalanche debris-choked roads resulted in 65,000 fewer hiker days on Colorado’s 14ers last year as compared to the 2018 season (288,000 vs. 353,000). This level of recreational use suggests a statewide economic impact of more than $78 million, based on past 14er-related expenditure studies performed by Colorado State University economists John Loomis and Catherine Keske.
Head over to their website to learn more about the methodology and see how your favorite fourteener ranks on the list.
Mountain Safety Videos
Have you ever wondered, “Will I get charged for a mountain rescue?” or “How long does it take SAR teams to evacuate an injured hiker?”
Earlier this summer, CFI expanded its educational YouTube library with six new mountain safety videos. The first series titled “Introduction to 3rd Class” addresses topics including scrambling on Mount Sneffels, managing risks on Kelso Ridge, and avoiding navigational issues on the Challenger/Kit Carson area that has seen a spike in rescues over recent seasons. Additional videos featuring Search and Rescue experts, a helicopter pilot with Flight for Life Colorado, mountain athletes, and survivors caught overnight in a fast-moving blizzard answer these important questions and many more. Follow the link to their YouTube page to watch the newest videos. Two more videos will be released this fall.