Colorado, United States
Pikes Peak (originally Pike's Peak, see below) is a mountain in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, 10 miles west of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in El Paso County. It is named for Zebulon Pike, an explorer who led an expedition to the southern Colorado area in 1806. At 14115 feet, it is one of Colorado's 54 fourteeners. Drivers race up the mountain in a famous annual race called the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The peak is also the annual site of the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent foot races on the Barr Trail. An upper portion of Pikes Peak is a federally designated National Historic Landmark.
Geography and geology
Much of the fame of Pikes Peak is due to its location along the eastern edge of the Rockies. Pikes Peak is the easternmost fourteen thousand foot peak in the United States. Unlike most other similarly tall mountains in Colorado, it serves as a visible landmark for many miles to the east, far into the Great Plains of Colorado. As one drives south on Interstate 25 towards the city of Colorado Springs, it comes into view from a distance of more than 130 miles. On a clear day, the peak can be seen from Denver (over 60 miles north), and from locations near the Kansas border to the east.
Pikes Peak is made of a characteristic pink granite, called Pikes Peak granite. The pink color is due to a large amount of potassium feldspar. The granite was formed by an igneous intrusion in the Pre-Cambrian, approximately 1.05 billion years ago, during the Grenville orogeny.
During the period of exploration in Colorado, many would refer to the mountain as "Pike's Peak," after Zebulon Pike, the man who first documented it and attempted to climb to its summit. The attempt failed to reach the summit as it was made during the winter months. The snow drifts were reported chest high at the time of the climb.
Edwin James was successful to reach the summit in his attempt during a summer month's attempt. Later, some suggested "James' Peak," after Edwin James, the first man who successfully climbed to the summit. However, in this area there was another "James' Peak" which made identification of the peak a confusing issue. The name went back and forth until it was settled with a uniquely identifiable name.
Originally the peak was called "Pike's Peak", but in 1891, the newly-formed US Board on Geographic Names recommended against the use of apostrophes in names, so officially the name of the peak does not include an apostrophe. In addition, in 1978 the Colorado state legislature passed a law mandating the use of "Pikes Peak" only. Even so, the old name is often seen.
The first non-natives to sight Pikes Peak were the members of the Pike expedition, led by Zebulon Pike. After a failed attempt to climb to the top in November 1806, Pike wrote in his journal (emphasis added):
This entry has led to an oft-stated claim that Pike said no one had ever, nor would ever reach the top of Pikes Peak. Placed in context, he is making a reasonable assessment of his men's prospects of reaching the top in difficult circumstances.