Story and photos by Maisie Ramsay
High atop the wind-blasted saddle between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan sits the time capsule that is the Hilltop Mine. This is not the kind filled with trinkets and buried for future discovery – no, the Hilltop Mine is an accidental time capsule, a relic of times long past, a monument to human ambition. Crack open the history books, and get a glimpse of the past.
The Hilltop Mine is now little more than a sun-bleached outbuilding clinging precariously to a 12,900-foot talus slope. The massive infrastructure that transported tons of ore has largely disappeared. What meager evidence remains is slowly dissolving into the earth.
“Some see (these sites) as a monument to history and our founding economy, others see them as an eyesore and something environmentally destructive,” says South Park historian Christie Wright. “I find them quite fascinating … but then you look at Leadville, a Superfund cleanup, and the EPA spill in Ouray. It was the founding economy of our state, both good and bad.”
The Hilltop Mine was not the Mosquito Range’s first high-elevation claim, nor the most well-known. Rather, it was among several high-elevation mines extracting precious metal from the Mosquito Range during silver boom of the 1800s.