Last Update: 9/8/1998 - Jens Moller
Back in the 1870's when Leadville was booming, the shortest way to get there was to cross over Mosquito Pass from Fairplay. Many people died doing this when attempting it in the late fall, anytime in the winter or spring. In those days, looking for Gold and Silver drove a lot of people to take risks that were very extreme. These days, we are a bit better equipped to take a ride over this road. Because of the altitude, its possible to get snow any time of year and Mosquito Pass is often only open late July thru Early September.
The Pass is 2 way, so you could start at Fairplay or Leadville. I started at
Fairplay at the intersection of Highways 285 and 9 and headed towards Alma.
There is a sign that marks the entrance to 'Mosquito Gulch' - turn
left here (Colorado Highway 12). Its a well graded dirt/gravel road
for the first few miles.
The name 'Mosquito' comes from the city that used to between Park City and the London Mine (the first set of ruins you'll see along the way). It seems that no one could decide on a name for that city, but during a meeting someone noticed a mosquito squashed between the pages of one of the city record books.
Park City - a few miles before the pass
There was a lot of rocks missing around the drain pipe at the beginning
of the ascent to the pass. My Jeep Cherokee's trailer hitch slapped
the metal drain pipe as I drove over it. If you think your vehicle may
have a problem here (or anywhere else on the pass) get out and move a
few stones around to avoid the same
thing happening to you. The pass starts at around 11,000 feet (pretty close
to tree line).
There are remains of a tramway leading from the mine shaft house (shown here) down to the the shacks far below.
Remains of a mine at around 12,000 feet above sea level.
The road way is not difficult, but fairly steep
|You'll see the remains of the telegraph and telephone lines that ran over the pass. Many of the poles are missing thanks to the occasional winter avalanche. The people of Leadville got their news from Denver and when the telegraph lines were out, the newspaper people would come up and try to repair them no matter what the weather (usually a blizzard). The first telephone lines made it over this pass in 1889 - The Telephone was patented in 1876. Leadville had all of the latest technology.|
Once at the top of the pass, you have the option of heading off even higher
on to the peaks that surround Mosquito Pass. It looks like there is
some sort of antenna way up on the north side peak. There are access trails
It was chilly when we were there and large snow drifts around us. The Snow was pink in places - an algae that grows on snow.
Jesse and Sanjiv say that its cold and windy at 13,185 feet on this bright and sunny August day. A trail runs up behind the sign.
There is a memorial to Father Dyer at the summit of the pass - He brought religion into the area back in the late 1800's. He also delivered mail between Fairplay and Leadville, using snowshoes and long skis to make it thru 10 feet or more of snow on any given day of the year - he walked this pass year round.
The trip down to Leadville is just as steep, if not more, than the trip to the summit of Mosquito Pass from the Fairplay side. There is more room for turn outs on this side of the pass and its not quite as rocky. When up here, take the time to look at the views around you on both sides of the pass. You'll see alpine lakes and many signs of abandoned human habitation. I can't imagine trying to take a stage coach ride over this in the middle of a blizzard, but many people did before trains started to service Leadville.
When you get towards Leadville, you'll find yourself among many old mining areas. Leadville has a lot of good Ore still in the ground and never really ever stopped being a mining town. The dirt/gravel road will eventually lead you onto East 7th Street past the railroad station onto Harrison Avenue. Go north on Harrison to head to Interstate 70, or south on Harrison to head towards Buena Vista.
Comments? Questions? contact Jens Moller
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