Pike's Peak

by Timothy Oleson
Monday, June 16, 2014

The 4,300-meter-tall peak that Zebulon Pike first spied in November 1806 was already known to Native Americans, as well as Spanish settlers, who called it El Capitán. Pike first dubbed it Grand Peak, but by the mid-19th century, the name Pike’s Peak (later Pikes Peak) had begun to stick.

Although Pike, who never reached its slopes, described it as appearing blue from a distance, the mountain is composed mostly of the pinkish, potassium feldspar-rich and aptly named Pikes Peak granite, which crystallized underground more than a billion years ago. It was later exhumed by successive episodes of uplift and mountain building — including the Laramide orogeny beginning about 75 million years ago — before being chiseled and etched by glaciations and erosion.

The first recorded ascent of Pikes Peak was made by Edwin James in 1820. Today, Pikes Peak is a popular tourist site, with its famous cog railway ferrying visitors from Manitou Springs, Colo., to the mountain’s summit.

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