Mt. Lincoln: A Presidential Peak
Colorado’s 8th Highest Peak Honors Abe
There has been a lot of chatter in the past year when it comes to the geographical names of peaks and places in Colorado. Last July when Colorado Governor Jared Polis established the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board (Board) he put into motion a process “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 make official recommendations to the Governor. For those interested in keeping up with this group’s process, this month they “continue the orientation of the board, including nominating and approval of officers, and consideration of its decision-making processes.”
But for the purpose of this post, Leadville Today is going to tell the story of how one of Colorado’s 14ers got it’s name in the first place. This is the story of Mt. Lincoln, which is not on the board’s chopping block. . . yet!
Judge Wilbur F. Stone is the man most notably connected with this Colorado peak which can be found in Park County on the other side of the Mosquito Mountain Range from Leadville Today. As a young man, Stone ventured west like many at the height of the big push, joining a wagon train headed for Denver which paved his path to the Rocky Mountains, ultimately landing him in the mining community of Tarryall located in South Park. It’s where he would spend the next five years as a prospector, miner, and practicing lawyer. While Stone’s future endeavors would elevate him as far as the Colorado Supreme Court, as well as having a hand in the drafting of the state’s constitution, his early days of rugged high-alpine living carved out his love of mountaineering. And ultimately, gave a name to the lofty Presidential Peak: Mount Lincoln.
It was one June night in 1861 around the evening’s campfire when Stone recanted his first trek up the peak which towered above the remote mining camp. It would be one of several summits Stone would make which would eventually inspire him to submit the mighty 14er to be named after President Abraham Lincoln, who was in the midst of a Civil War at this point in American history.
In fact, it may very well have been the assassination of the beloved leader that inspired Wilbur Stone’s trek up the peak several years later in the summer of 1865 to officially record its altitude. The following was written by Judge Wilbur F. Stone reciting the history, not only of the ascent but in the naming of the peak: Mount Lincoln.
“One warm day in August, three summers ago, the writer of this, in company with a gentleman from Omaha, made an ascent of this peak for the purpose of taking its altitude. Starting early in the morning we slowly wound our way from the village up through the dense pine forests until we reached the limit of timber where the pines dwindled into dwarfs a foot in height, twisted into fantastic contortions by the storm blasts of winter. Then came the carpeting of grasses and flowers, of the vegetation which terminated at the snow-line in mosses and lichens.”
While Stone originally thought the peak to be over 15,000 feet in elevation, when all was said and done he calculated the mighty Rocky Mountain giant in at 14,286′, making it Colorado’s 8th in line. And directly after his official work was recorded, like many mountaineers, Stone also discovered first hand that the weather can move in quick at that altitude, and recorded the following:
“At the end of an hour after our arrival, a storm approached from the west and swept over the mountain. In less than 10 minutes and from the time the clouds struck us, the mercury fell from 50° to zero. Fierce blasts of wind roared and shrieked among the crags and snow darkened the air. In the midst of this, we commenced our slippery descent. We soon became charged with electricity so that the hair of our heads stood on end, sparks flew from the ends of our fingers and cracked at every step with a hissing sound that could be heard a distance of 100 feet. Forked flashes of lightning leaped two from rock to rock and played about our heads, almost blinding the sight, but as our bodies were charged equally with the clouds and mountain, there was, of course, no danger. Black clouds rolled and tumbled over each other, a mile below us, like the uncouth with the gambols of terrible monsters in this upper ocean. Descending through the strata of clouds, we at last reached sunlight and entered the village at dark, the whole distance along the slope from the valley to the summit, being about 10 miles.”
He had quite a tale to tell, that night around the evening’s campfire. And a mission at hand.
“Let, then, other states and other peoples raise their monuments of patriotism and of art to guild the fame of the great dead; but Colorado can point, in all time, to this proud monumental mountain, which rears itself as the gigantic spine of this continental vertebrae – she can point it out, hundreds of miles away, to the traveler as he goes from ocean to ocean on the future continental railway, and exclaim with the old Latin poet, Horace:
“I have builded a monument more enduring than brass,
And loftier than the regal pile of the pyramids.”
Happy Presidents Day, Abe, Cheers to Mount Lincoln!
The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board‘s List: Round One
Snow Slides: Two Backcountry Fatalities
The following report was filed with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) on February 15, 2021 at 7:30 a.m.
Sadly there were two avalanche fatalities this weekend, in two avalanche accidents. Both accidents shared common characteristics. A large and deep avalanche broke near the ground, entraining the entire season’s snowpack. Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and families of both victims.
- 2/12: Human-triggered 2 to 6 foot deep and 200 feet wide avalanche near Monarch Pass on an east-facing wind-drifted slope.
- 2/13: Snowmobiler remotely triggered a 2 to 8 foot deep and 250 feet wide avalanche south of Hancock Pass on a wind-loaded north-facing slope.
- 2/14: Human-triggered 2 to 5 foot deep and 200 feet wide avalanche near Monarch Pass on a wind drifted southeast-facing slope.
A Special Avalanche Advisory is in effect for the mountains of Colorado through Monday February 15. Avalanche conditions are unusual. Backcountry travelers can trigger avalanches that may break very wide and run the full length of the avalanche path. Your normal routes and safety habits may not keep you out of a dangerous avalanche. Backcountry travelers need to take extra precautions this weekend. Check current conditions for the area you plan to travel. Adjust your plan for the day to fit the current avalanche conditions.
Local Avalanche Conditions “Considerable”
Issued by: Bo Torrey, for the Sawatch Range which includes Leadville and Lake County:
The series of storms over the weekend produced heavy snowfall and strong winds that created sensitive avalanche conditions and a cycle of large natural avalanches. Natural avalanches remain possible and human-triggered avalanches are likely across the Central Mountains. Expect changing conditions and the avalanche danger to rise as winds increase and snowfall returns later in the day.
Continue to choose conservative terrain less than 30-degrees steep. Over the last several day’s many avalanches broke 2-6+ feet deep and several hundred feet wide, running the entire length of the avalanche paths, snapping mature timber, and leaving debris piles more than 10 feet deep.
The periods of dry weather in early December and January created widespread persistent weak layers in the snowpack and the last few weeks of stormy weather has gradually built thick slabs on top of those persistent weak layers. We’ve seen large avalanches during each storm period and expect more to occur today and tomorrow. The difference now is the size and destructive force of avalanches are much larger and unsurvivable. Areas that slide earlier in the season are now reloaded and ready to avalanche again. Obvious signs of instability such as cracking and collapsing might not be present, stability tests are not always reliable, the poor structure of our snowpack is the trump card. The structure is prime for large and destructive avalanches that break wider than expected and pull out snow on lower-angle slopes. It is a good time to look at the bigger picture and avoid avalanche terrain instead of trying to thread the needle.
If you plan to enter the backcountry avoid all avalanche terrain and make sure you give yourself a wide margin for error. Familiarize yourself with the terrain before heading into the mountains on one of the many mapping websites. Identify areas to avoid and potential overhead hazards. Remember slope shading on mapping software is not 100% accurate and can miss small steep features so carry a tool that will allow you to measure slope angles in the field and when in doubt avoid suspect slopes.