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Mt. Lincoln: Presidential Peak for Presidential Man!
In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday today, here’s a tribute to Mount Lincoln – it’s closer than you think! When driving south on Highway 91 from Copper Mountain to Leadville, you can see Mt. Lincoln. But don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
AND you have to know exactly where to look. While it’s not as visible as Mt. Arkansas or Mt. Bartlett, this presidential peak can be seen peaking over the ever-growing, re-shifting piles of dirt and minerals at the Climax Mine. Look up, right before you head into the southbound curve over the Climax truck tunnels. You can see the triangular top of the peak directly to the left of Mt Arkansas, also known as the sleeping Indian mountain. That’s Mt Lincoln and its history is as interesting as the man it was named after.
It all started in June 1861. By the time Wilbur F. Stone reached the mining camp of Montgomery, he was full of the energy and wonder of climbing 14,286 feet – although at the time he estimated the peak was over 17,000 feet. Stone’s true challenge, however, came later that night back around the basecamp fire as the miners listened to his description of the mountain and the men threw out name suggestions for the majestic alp.
Stone himself had a knack for names and words. After all, he was the fella while pondering some mining company paperwork spawned the name Mosquito – as in the peak, the gulch, and the pass. Urban legend dictates that Stone could not decide on a name for his new mining company and left the space blank on the legal documents. A mosquito then landed on the blank space and met its demise. Stone went with the name Mosquito and the rest is history.
So when it came to naming this new peak, a lasting legacy was important. Remember, it was June 1861 and there was a lot going on in the United States, namely a war between the states: The Civil War.
The story is told that after a number of names were suggested, the name of the recently elected president was raised and as if in one voice, they all shouted: “Lincoln!” Lincoln it was.
Today, Mt Lincoln is Colorado’s 8th highest peak at 14,286 feet. Officially, the peak sits in the Mosquito Range which hosts five mountains that exceed the magic 14,000-foot mark: Lincoln, Mount Boss, Mount Democrat, Cameron Point and Mount Sherman. While Mount Lincoln is generally associated with Hoosier Pass – between Breckenridge and Alma – the peak can be seen from Lake County’s Fremont Pass, but you really have to know where to look.
For many years, Mt. Lincoln belonged to an elite group of four mountains that were thought to be the only Fourteeners. It is also known as the miner’s mountain as it is pockmarked with old mines and today much of the land is privately owned by mining companies. In the summer of 2005, these landowners denied access to the peaks by hikers and climbers, fearing liability in the case of injury and citing the particular dangers due to the presence of old mine workings. On August 1, 2006, the town of Alma signed a deal to lease the peaks for a nominal fee, to reduce the potential liability to the owners and free up the peaks for recreational access.
It’s sad to note that President Abraham Lincoln never had the pleasure of seeing his glorious namesake. However, he was thrilled about the honor and sent Speaker of the House of Representatives Schuyler Colfax to Colorado with the mission of thanking the citizens for the tribute.
So be sure to give ole Abe a presidential shout out when you’re rounding the bend on Highway 91 on your drive into Leadville.