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Uncompahgre Peak

Name History (Uncompahgre Peak)

Title: Naming of Uncompahgre Peak

Entered by: 14erFred

Added: 5/14/2010, Last Updated: 5/14/2010

Sources: Borneman, W.R., & Lampert, L.J. (1978). A climbing guide to Colorado's Fourteeners. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Company. Eberhart, P., & Schmuck, P. (1970). The Fourteeners: Colorado's great mountains. Chicago: The Swallow 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.

Historians disagree about the exact origin of the mountain's name. The earliest recorded sighting of the mountain was by Lieutenant E.G. Beckwith, official recorder for the Gunnison Expedition of 1853, who called it Uncompahgre. Some scholars contend that "Uncompahgre" is a derivation from the ancient Ute words that mean hot ("unca") water ("pah") spring ("gre"). Others argue that the mountain's name is a distortion of the Ute word "ancapogari," which means "red lake." Both of these possible word-origins seem to refer to the natural reddish hot springs, located near the present-day town of Ouray (about 12 miles WSW of the mountain), that were a favorite campground of the Utes.

Another early recorded sighting of Uncompahgre was from Engineer Pass (about 9½ miles SW of the mountain) by E.H. Rufner, during a reconnaissance of the Ute Indian territory in 1873. Apparently unaware of Beckwith's earlier sighting, Rufner named the peak "Mt. Chavenet," in honor of a professor of astronomy at Washington University in St. Louis. Contributing to the host of names by which the peak was known, early miners in the area referred to it as "the Leaning Tower" or "Capitol Mountain."