Native Peaks

By Mike Rosso

The Ute Indian tribes are the oldest continuous residents of Colorado. The earliest Utes are said to have populated the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and were hunters and gatherers.

Before the Europeans arrived, the Ute (which means “land of the sun”) were composed of seven bands; the Mouache, Weeminuche, Uintah, Yampa, Parianuc, Tabeguache and Capote. The latter were dwellers of the San Luis Valley and Northern New Mexico. The Tabeguache lived in the Gunnison and Uncompahgre River Valleys. These diverse bands now make up the present day Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Northern Ute Tribes.

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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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Scholarly Peaks of Colorado

How did the Collegiate Peaks, the towering mountains that soar above the Upper Arkansas River Valley, get their Ivy League names?

The tradition began in 1869 when members of the first Harvard Mining School class named 14,420-foot Mount Harvard after their institution while on expedition with Josiah Dwight Whitney, professor of geology at Harvard. The same group named the adjacent peak, Mount Yale after Whitney’s alma mater. The class was in Colorado that year to identify the highest point in the contiguous United States and to debunk rumors of an 18,000-foot peak in the Rocky Mountains.

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