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14,134-foot South Elbert will remain officially nameless

Brief by Central Staff

Geography – January 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

The 14,134-foot mountain informally known as South Elbert won’t get a formal name from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

The board made that decision at its Sept. 5 meeting when it declined to approve either of two proposals for a new name.

One was to call it Mount Duke — presumably for the university in North Carolina, although we don’t know for sure, since this was the first we’d heard of this.

The other was to call it Mount William and Mary. This came from Dr. Kenneth Kambis, a professor of kinesiology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He studies the effect of altitude on the respiration of older people, and has climbed both Elbert and South Elbert on several occasions. (See the May, 1998, edition of Colorado Central for the full story.)

The William and Mary proposal was accepted by the Lake County Commissioners, but opposed by State Rep. Carl Miller and State Sen. Ken Chlouber, both Leadville residents, who write that “…given the fact that the peak is located in lake County we firmly believe it should be named in honor of our community’s rich and glorious history.”

Roger L. Payne, executive secretary of the federal Board on Geographic Names, said the decision not to rename South Elbert was “in agreement with the negative recommendation of the Colorado Board on Geographic Names.”

By the customary rule for determining what’s a separate mountain — half a mile of separation and at least 300 feet of rise from the saddle — South Elbert is not a separate peak. It meets the horizontal rule, since its summit is about a mile south of 14,433 Mount Elbert, the highest point in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, and Lake County. But its apex is only 224 feet above the 13,910-foot saddle between the summits.