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Learn the origins of the names of Colorado’s highest peaks

Colorado natives Jeri Norgren and John Fielder composed “Colorado's Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-foot Peaks” with her research and his photographs, creating an instant classic for Colorado coffee tables. The pair will virtually present their book through the Bud Werner Memorial Library Author Series at 7 p.m. Monday. (Courtesy John Fielder)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Have you ever wondered how Sunshine Peak or Challenger Point were named? You’re not alone. Many search the origin stories of Colorado’s 58 peaks that reach more than 14,000 feet, 14ers as they’re commonly known, but no one had compiled an indepth history of the names until now.

The Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs is hosting a virtual presentation as part of its Author Series, with author Jeri Norgren and photographer John Fielder, who co-created “Colorado’s Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-foot Peaks.”

The free virtual presentation at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7 will feature a slideshow of Fielder’s photos as well as some of Norgren’s favorite nuggets of history that she dug up while doing research for the book. Interested attendees can register at steamboatlibrary.org/events/library-author-series/14ers. The book is available for purchase at Off the Beaten Path in downtown Steamboat.



The book started as a personal quest for answers to Norgren’s curiosity. The fifth-generation Colorado resident and member of the women’s literary group, the Denver Fortnightly Club, dove into the national archives about three years ago just for fun. She was inspired by a reading of old club minutes during which she learned the Denver Fortnightly Club played a large role in getting Mt. Rosalie changed to Mt. Evans.

“That was news to me,” she said. “I had no idea that Mt. Evans had another name.”



With her curiosity tingling, she delved into the National Archives and the Hayden Surveys, conducted in the 1870s by Ferdinand V. Hayden, head of the United States Geological Survey. She gathered binders full of information from the Denver Public Library Western History Section, the USGS Library in Lakewood and the Alpine Library in Golden.

Colorado natives Jeri Norgren and John Fielder composed “Colorado's Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-foot Peaks” with her research and his photographs, creating an instant classic for Colorado coffee tables. The pair will virtually present their book through the Bud Werner Memorial Library Author Series at 7 p.m. Monday. (Courtesy John Fielder)

“The more I searched for answers, the more questions I had,” Norgren said. “Then I realized that nobody had done this. This hasn’t been done. This part of Colorado’s history is not out there. That’s when I decided it needed to be a book.”

With her research done as the world slipped into a world of social distancing, Norgren began writing. To accompany her stories of first climbs and exploration are sketches from the Hayden Surveys, oil paintings by Bob Wogrin and gorgeous photos by Fielder. Norgren reached out to the Ansel Adams Award- winning photographer, and he offered to fill her pages with his photos, some of which have never before been published.

“At first it seemed like it might be a nice little history book with historical sketches from the Hayden Survey, but then I started thinking, I’ve photographed almost every mountain and Alpine lake in Colorado over the last 40 years,” Fielder said.

“Colorado's Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-foot Peaks” is filled with original sketches from the Hayden Surveys in the 1870s, during which many of the states tallest peaks were named. (Courtesy of John Fielder)

Fielder combed through 20,000 4×5 transparency films and found photos of most of the 14,000-foot mountains. His photos will play on a slideshow with music during the virtual presentation on Monday. His favorites are from the Needle Range, a subrange of the San Juans, in Southwest Colorado, home to four 14ers including Windom and Sunlight peaks.

“The Needles are the most remote and rugged range,” Fielder said. “It takes more effort to get into because they’re so remote, but that’s the way it should be for the most beautiful.”

Summit County native John Fielder contributed his award-winning landscape photography to “Colorado's Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-foot Peaks.” (Courtesy John Fielder)

Norgren’s part of the presentation will feature some of her favorite stories, including how Mt. Massive was named and the history around a few attempted name changes.

“It’s such a boring name. They gave the name because of its massive size. Sometimes the survey people didn’t think outside the box,” Norgren said. “But what makes that name so cool is people tried to change the name of that mountain three different times. The people of Leadville, that is their mountain. … The outrage from the people of Leadville and Lake County, there was no way anyone was going to mess with their mountain.”

“Colorado's Highest: The History of Naming the 14,000-foot Peaks” also includes paintings of many of the state’s highest peaks by Bob Wogrin. (Courtesy John Fielder)

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