Kit Carson Peak

Name History (Challenger Point)

Title: Naming of Challenger Point

Entered by: 14erFred

Added: 05/14/2010, Last Updated: 05/14/2010

Sources: Borneman, W.R., & Lampert, L.J. (1988). A climbing guide to Colorado's Fourteeners. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Company. Shayler, D. (1987). Shuttle challenger. London: Salamander Books.

This summit was officially named Challenger Point in 1987 in memory of the crew of the NASA space shuttle Challenger -- Commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Sharon Christa McAuliffe -- all seven of whom died when their spacecraft exploded less than two minutes after lift-off on January 28, 1986. "A bronze plaque was placed on the summit on July 19, 1987, by a party led by Alan Silverstein" (Borneman & Lampert, 1988, p. 171).

Name History (Kit Carson Peak)

Title: Naming of Kit Carson Peak

Entered by: 14erFred

Added: 05/14/2010, Last Updated: 05/14/2010

Sources: Carter, H.L. (1968). 'Dear Old Kit': The historical Kit Carson. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Estergreen, M. (1962). Kit Carson: A Portrait in Courage. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Hart, J.L.J. (1977). Fourteen thousand feet: A history of the naming and early ascents of the high Colorado peaks (Second Edition). Denver, CO: The Colorado Mountain Club. Trafzer, C. E. (1982). Kit Carson Campaign: The Last Great Navajo War. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Vestal, S. (1928). Kit Carson, the Happy Warrior of the west. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

The mountain has previously been known by at least 4 other names. It was called "Crestone" by early settlers of the nearby town of the same name. Others called it "Haystack Baldy." The 1877 and 1879 maps of the U.S. Government's Wheeler Survey showed it as "Frustum." And Silversparre's 1882 "New Map of Colorado" designated it as "Mt. Lena." The current name was first suggested by the Hayden Survey of 1874-75.

Perhaps no other 14er has as colorful and romantic a namesake as does Kit Carson Peak (with the possible exceptions of Mts. Lincoln and Sherman). Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson (December 24, 1809 - May 23, 1868 ) was the most famous guide and scout of the Southern Rockies, and local legend holds that he actually lived in a cabin near the base of the peak for several years. (In fact, as a Colonel in the U.S. Army, Kit Carson commanded Fort Garland at the southern base of Blanca Peak from 1866-67 to keep the peace and negotiate with the Utes.) His courage, character, and exploits are the subject of numerous myths and stories. In addition to his widely-acknowledged skills as an outdoorsman, Carson had the reputation of absolute truthfulness and honesty. His fine character and integrity made him much-admired and respected among the trappers. Though he had little formal education and could neither read nor write more than his name, he spoke Spanish, French, Apache, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Comanche, Cheyenne, Crow, Shoshone, Piute, Ute, and the universal sign language of the Plains Indians. He also had an uncanny ability to learn quickly from observation. Carson served as a guide for John C. Fremont in three expeditions (1842-46) to the western territories.

"At a glance Kit Carson was not an impressive figure of a man. He was about five and a half feet tall with broad, somewhat stooped shoulders and a deep barrel-chest...Kit's auburn hair was usually worn down the back of his neck...Off and on throughout his life he sported a distinguished reddish mustache which drooped over the sides of his lips. The key to his character was found in his blue-gray eyes, which were quick and piercing" (Trafzer, 1982, p. 51). "He looked his part so little that on one occasion some emigrants on the Oregon Trail, having paused to stare at the famous scout, went back to their wagons, hooting and laughing, too smart to be hoaxed by those who had pointed out that insignificant-looking little man" (Vestal, 1928, p. 4). Contrary to the self-promotion of many modern-day champions, Kit Carson was unassuming, was never boastful, and was prone to understatement. "He talked but little, was very quiet, and (unlike most mountain men) seldom used immoral or profane language" (Carter, 1968, p. 192). As his friend Tom Tobin noted when asked what made Kit different from the other mountain men: "Kit never cussed more'n was necessary" (Estergreen, 1962, p. xx).

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