By Ed Quillen
If the United States had adopted the metric system in 1820, then Colorado’s highest country might be in better condition today with much less in the way of trail erosion, trampled tundra and disturbed wildlife.
Why 1820? The metric system had been devised by the French Academy of Sciences in 1795, so by 1820, Americans certainly knew about it. And 1820 marked the first recorded climb of a 14,000-foot peak in America.
Consider that “4,267.21-meter summit” lacks the resonance and romance of “14,000-foot peak” or just “Fourteener.” And without that arbitrary line in the sky, few of Colorado’s 54 Fourteeners would suffer the traffic they bear today.