Colorado’s 8th Highest Peak Honors Abe
Judge Wilbur F. Stone is the man most notably connected with this Colorado peak which can be found in Park County located northeast from Saguache Today. As a young man, Stone ventured west like many at the height of the big push, joining a wagon train headed for Denver which paved his path to the Rocky Mountains, ultimately landing him in the mining community of Tarryall located in South Park. It’s where he would spend the next five years as a prospector, miner, and a practicing lawyer. While Stone’s future endeavors would elevate him as far as the Colorado Supreme Court, as well as having a hand in the drafting of the state’s constitution, his early days of rugged high-alpine living carved out his love of mountaineering. And ultimately, gave a name to the lofty Presidential Peak: Mount Lincoln.
It was one June night in 1861 around the evening’s campfire when Stone recanted his first trek up the peak which towered above the remote mining camp. It would be one of several summits Stone would make which would eventually inspire him to submit the mighty 14er to be named after President Abraham Lincoln, who was in the midst of a Civil War at this point in American history.
In fact, it may very well have been the assassination of the beloved leader that inspired Wilbur Stone’s trek up the peak several years later in the summer of 1865 to officially record its altitude. The following was written by Judge Wilbur F. Stone reciting the history, not only of the ascent but in the naming of the peak: Mount Lincoln.
“One warm day in August, three summers ago, the writer of this, in company with a gentleman from Omaha, made an ascent of this peak for the purpose of taking its altitude. Starting early in the morning we slowly wound our way from the village up through the dense pine forests until we reached the limit of timber where the pines dwindled into dwarfs a foot in height, twisted into fantastic contortions by the storm blasts of winter. Then came the carpeting of grasses and flowers, of the vegetation which terminated at the snow-line in mosses and lichens.”
While Stone originally thought the peak to be over 15,000 feet in elevation, when all was said and done he calculated the mighty Rocky Mountain giant in at 14,286′, making it Colorado’s 8th in line. And directly after his official work was recorded, like many mountaineers, Stone also discovered first hand that the weather can move in quick at that altitude, and recorded the following:
“A the end of an hour after our arrival, a storm approached from the west and swept over the mountain. In less than 10 minutes and from the time the clouds struck us, the mercury fell from 50° to zero. Fierce blasts of wind roared and shrieked among the crags and snow darkened the air. In the midst of this, we commenced our slippery descent. We soon became charged with electricity so that the hair of our heads stood on end, sparks flew from the ends of our fingers and cracked at every step with a hissing sound that could be heard a distance of 100 feet. Forked lightnings leapt two from rock to rock, and played about our heads, almost blinding the sight, but as our bodies were charged equally with the clouds and mountain, there was of course, no danger. Black clouds rolled and tumbled over each other, a mile below us, like the uncouth with the gambols of terrible monsters in this upper ocean. Descending through the strata of clouds, we at last reached sunlight and entered the village at dark, the whole distance along the slope from the valley to the summit, being about 10 miles.”
He had quite a tale to tell, that night around the evening’s campfire. And a mission at hand.
“Let, then, other states and other peoples raise their monuments of patriotism and of art to guild the fame of the great dead; but Colorado can point, in all time, to this proud monumental mountain, which rears itself as the gigantic spine of this continental vertebrae – she can point it out, hundreds of miles away, to the traveler as he goes from ocean to ocean on the future continental railway, and exclaim with the old Latin poet, Horace:
“I have builded a monument more enduring than brass,
And loftier than the regal pile of the pyramids.”
Happy Birthday Mr. President, Cheers to Mount Lincoln!