The Costs of Altitude

Aerial view of Mt.Ouray and Mt. Chipeta, Colorado by Dan Downing.

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.

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Story about Breckenridge was thin on one element

Brief by Allen Best

Altitude – March 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

The New York Times recently had a travel piece about Breckenridge, but one reader, Rudolph Pick, from Florida, thought the story incomplete. That belief is based on his personal experience.

My first night was a horrible experience I could not breathe. First thing in the morning, I went to the first-aid station, where it was determined that the oxygen content of my blood was 70 percent only. The high altitude of the resort — almost 10,000 feet — was the cause.

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High-elevation doctor ministers to the Rolling Stones

Brief by Allen Best

Altitude – March 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

Last fall, the Rolling Stones were scheduled to play in Mexico City, which has an elevation of 7,342 feet. Worried a bit about the thin, polluted air there, the band turned to Telluride’s Peter Hackett, one of the world’s premiere authorities on high-altitude medicine and physiology.

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Who’s the highest of them all?

Brief by Allen Best

Altitude – March 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

The stakes are rising, so to speak, in the argument about who has the highest town in the United States. So are tempers.

For many years, the dispute was between Alma and Leadville, two old mining towns located on opposite sides of Colorado’s Mosquito Range. Leadville has an elevation of 10,182 feet on its main street, Harrison Avenue, but city employees several years ago began using the municipal water tower, elevation 10,430 feet. Alma responded by establishing an elevation, 10,578 feet, between its post office and water tank.

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