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Unnamed Peaks the Shame of the San Juans

Unnamed Peaks the Shame of the San Juans

(Ridgway) Abandoned to the elements from their tottering perches, bastards of convenience, tinkers of history, forgotten rocky remnants without so much as a tag of respectability. These are the nameless mountain peaks haunting our Southwest Colorado skyline. A wall of shame for all to see.

Labeled an embarrassment by every office seeker, civic leader and mountaineer, little has been accomplished to improve the status of these so-called “anonymous ones”. In fact, the subject remains an ultra-sensitive quagmire, often overlooked in the face of more demanding duties and the daily errands of Alpine survival, one not often introduced in polite circles. Hush-hush, you know.

Many residents say the problem could be put to rest by simply naming all the nameless peaks but this has been largely dismissed by purists who insist the names must distill like fine single-malt or cure like a Serrano ham. They say the names will mean nothing if concocted to fit a meaningless bill of fare. Quick-fix solutions are “phony and transparent”, they insist.

“The nomenclature of these sacred mountains must distill like fine single-malt or cure like a Serrano ham,” say the more literate assembled. “Branding these massive monolyths is not something to do half-ass. What of posterity? What of topographics?”

“It’s just whitewashing,” said Colonel (retired) Wilbur “Bull” Bulbous of Log Hill Mesa. “We who look fondly on these high points each day do not take their identity lightly. They should all have names but there must be lore — Meat behind the moniker and history behind the handle. These mountains must be celebrated, not simply be appointed, not dubbed.”

At present, several rather large peaks are cursed with a severe personality crisis. They are not victims of identity tampering since they never had a name in the first place. Yes, the Utes may have christened some of these unfortunates, but over time those ancient titles were trampled by prospector nicknames and mining routes established by mules and muckers.

“Astonishing,” said one alpineer upon return from the Wilson Range. “These giants just sit there deprived of verbal recognition, hidden genetics, even the most basic geological categorization.”

According to the most recent tally there are 38 named peaks in the San Juan Range, 14 unnamed, and an assortment of demeaning letter designations as well as a flurry of unhinged reference points all above 12,000 feet. In some places multiple pinnacles reach into the sky without names. Sometimes several mountains are clumped together with little hope of determining when and where continental plates might have collided, creating them.

“It’s a disgrace,” added other hikers and binocular enthusiasts. “They have been sentenced as infinite nobodies in a world that has forgotten the Paleozoic. It is nothing short of a snub.”

While Uncompahgre and Wilson Peak get constant accolades many deserving peaks in the San Juans do not even have a name to call their own   (Toole Photo Service)

This sedimentary emergency is painfully acute in the more affluent escarpment that accommodates such massif monsters as Sneffels and Uncompahgre along those distinct ridge lines. Here stand clustered cliffs of sheer, sacred rock like cloisters of empty tenement housing or wind beaten, top-heavy sloops, half-sunk in a teeming celestial harbor.

Here stand clustered cliffs of sheer, sacred rock like cloisters of tenement housing or wind beaten, top-heavy sloops, half-sunk in a celestial harbor. 

We warn of failing infrastructure and ignore the pains of abandonment in our own backyards — We miss the magnificent tundra and overlook the splendor, not even exhibiting the common decency to give that mesmerizing rock a name. 

“Repulsive”, added a well-groomed hiker who has been in these hills at least once. “Where is the transcendence and spiritual  elevation?”

How dare we dismiss these gods, these steep, snow-capped luminaries. Where is our morality and sense of fair play? What about our obsession with justice for the underdog? 

We fail to recognize greatness that stares one in the face every day. How can we, in our haste to name computer functions,  and master corporate lingo, turn our backs on the natural pillars of an entire mountain range? These mountains have seen us come and go, not even as a novelty anymore. None seeks acclaim in a human sense, just a little notoriety.

– Uncle Pahgre