Two new Colorado titles for a reader’s bookshelf

Leadville, highest peaks are in spotlight as books are listed on Amazon


South-area readers follow many interests related to Colorado through print — on paper and online. Some of us build a small — or sizable — collection over the years. Among the new titles are a pair available through Amazon:

• The first book, “Two Miles High and Six Feet Under,” is a mystery based in historic Leadville circa 1895, when it was a large, busy, often violent mining town needing a boost in revenue. Centennial author Gary “G. Eldon” Smith, who incorporates humor and fact into a realistic account of adventures of his fictional young attorney/detective-type, Andrew Coyle, Esq. It seems that inventive residents, in the light of a silver crash, have decided to build a huge Ice Palace and attract folks from Denver and elsewhere to pay to visit it. And, hopefully, stay for lunch or dinner and some shopping!

This project had to be organized like a business to handle design, construction methods and the management of finances as they appeared — and, with a casual, hands-on approach by city fathers, some money was disappearing. Who among the locals has a hand in the cash drawer? Coyle is offered a temporary job, auditing/ investigating the matter, which probably involves an inside job. Many local notables had invested in this project and did not trust each other. Smith’s colorful descriptions of the scene in this wild and woolly city are based on the extensive information available via newspapers, journals, records and many photographs.

When Coyle arrives in Leadville, he spots a huge block of ice that contains a recognizable corpse — of one Burton Poindexter — who supposedly got drunk and fell in a pond where he froze. Some jokers cut out a large cube and installed it in the Crystal Palace when no one was looking. A murder? “Certainly in cold blood!” The body was sent to the coroner and Coyne next was taken to the Vendome Hotel and introduced to Doc James who provided him with office space. Readers with some familiarity with Leadville’s colorful history will enjoy the details Smith has collected.

After the elaborate Ice Palace opened, townspeople were urged to form a crowd to meet the trains from Denver, which brought many paying customers, and parade them to the towering structure to marvel, and hopefully, to spend a bunch of money!

Some competition appears between the sheriff and the chief of police as to who’s in charge. The newspaper reporter follows the situation, another murder occurs — and then another … All along, Smith fills in great details of clothing, food, housing, businesses, types of individuals one might find in such a location. Creative storytelling, backed by accurate historical research.

And a lively story to go well with a tall, cold drink and a shady tree or umbrella outside …

• The second book is “Surviving the Colorado 14ers: A Family’s Journey from Quandary to Capitol” by David, Mark and Dennis Witte. Some competition may arise as an increasing number of avid hikers “collect 14ers” and compare notes about those beautiful peaks that appear as one flies into Denver — or drives in across the plains — or perhaps they appear from a high-enough west-facing window, beckoning to some lucky residents.

“Surviving the Colorado 14ers” contains detailed thoughts on gear, food, LOTS of water, planning and timing — and most especially, how to stay safe as one gains in skills. Route-finding, analyzing weather, learning wilderness first aid techniques and efficient planning and packing are discussed in detail.

The Witte family — a father and two sons — first developed an interest 27 years ago and have “accomplished together what avid climbers aspire to: climbing all of Colorado’s 54 14ers,” a concept first developed in 1920 by Carl Blaulock and William Ervin, after they sat atop Mount Eolus in the San Juans and spun stories about their personal adventures … They completed what they knew and a list of those who had completed all 54 “trickled in over the next 67 years and by 1990, approximately 500 had finished,” according to Jacobs and Ormes in “A Guide to the Colorado Mountains,” now published by the Colorado Mountain Club — and one of the basics for that projected shelf…

The Wittes: Midwesterners, father Dennis and sons Mark and David, have joyfully planned new Colorado mountain excursions through the years, starting with training by professional mountaineers, they write. In recent years, young grandsons have joined the men and thoughtful notes on pint-sized hikers are excellent. (“Dad, My Legs Are Tired …”) They have carefully recorded climbs as they conquered another and another peak — and given a lot of thought to how to not only enjoy, but climb safely as they have progressed to the most difficult Class 3 and 4 climbs — and introduced a third generation of younger Wittes to these adventures when they were ready, one as young as 4. (And consistently got off that peak by noon …)

An ongoing resource cited is, which they consult for description of peak, conditions, trailheads, routes, etc. The website is updated by climbers and available to all.

This very complete compilation of experiences concludes with a section on “14ers in Winter.” (But first — master those easy ones in summer!)


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