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From Kit Carson to Tranquility?

Brief by Central Staff

Geography – August 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

According to one of our favorite books of mountain lore (A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, by Walter R. Borneman and Lyndon J. Lampert), there has always been some confusion about names for the peaks in the Sangre de Cristo range above the town of Crestone.

There are Crestone Peak (14,294) and Crestone Needle (14,197). They were not climbed until 1916, which makes them the last 14ers in Colorado to be climbed. Nearby is Kit Carson Peak (14,165).

As the book recounts, there was a proposal to give Colorado a “Centennial Peak” in 1976 when the state celebrated the 100th anniversary of its admission to the Union, and one of the Crestones seemed like a good candidate for a new name. So a member of the Centennial Commission visited Crestone and learned “that old-timers might call Kit Carson ‘Crestone’ and vice-versa, but they did not want any part of ‘Centennial Peak.'”

Now the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has been presented with a new proposal for revising names, this one from Keno Menechino of Crestone.

The eminence now known as Kit Carson Peak or Kit Carson Mountain would be named Mount Crestone, with several named protrusions. Challenger Point and Columbia Point would remain, while the highest point would be Tranquility Peak, which “reflects the tranquility found in the community below the summit,” according to the proposal.

Eliminating Kit Carson from the map would please Crestone residents, as “They feel Kit Carson was a war criminal, not a war hero. The Native Americans, Buddhists, and Hindus in the area seem very united on this, and they represent a large group of the population.”

We don’t quite see how adding a Mount Crestone to a nearby Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle would reduce geographic confusion. Further, we tend to prefer a “warts and all” view of our area’s history, of which Kit Carson is certainly a part. If it’s acceptable to have a Mt. KIA/MIA to honor warriors, then why isn’t it acceptable to have a warrior’s name on another mountain? Will they go after Mt. Shavano next, since Shavano was the war chief of the Tabeguache band?