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Colorado Tall Tales (Just for Fun)

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Colorado Tall Tales (Just for Fun)

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Object Title: Colorado Tall Tales (Just for Fun)

 

Page By: Scott

Created/Edited: Jul 26, 2006 / Jul 27, 2006

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Colorado Tall Tales

Colorado, and the USA in general, are notorious for claiming false "world records". Just for fun, here are some of them.

Tall Tale #1

St. Vrain Glaciers are the southernmost glaciers in North America.

The reality: Since when did Mexico secede from North America? The glaciers there are much larger and much further south. California also has many glaciers that are further south.

Pico de Orizaba.
Orizaba is a glaciated peak, as are some other peaks in Mexico.

Tall Tale #2

Longs Peak is the second highest near vertical wall in the US, after El Capitan.

Reality: Zion National Park has many just as vertical vertical faces 2000+ feet. Yosemite has other near vertical faces that exceed 2000 feet besides El Capitan. Mount Cleaveland in Montana has an near 4000 feet almost as steep as the Diamond. Alaska has many almost vertical faces 2000+ feet. I believe that even in Colorado the Painted Wall in Black Canyon is higher. Some say Notch Peak Utah has a higher vertical face than El Capitan, but alas it too is a tall tale since the face is broken in two sections by a ledge, often not visible from below.

West Temple
The face on the West Temple is higher than the Diamond.

Tall Tale #3

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the narrowest gorge in North America that is this deep.

Reality: The canyon forming Zion Narrows is just as deep, and much narrower.

Zion Narrows
The canyon forming the Zion Narrows is just as deep as, but narrower than Black Canyon.

Tall Tale #4

Mount Evans has the highest motor road in the world.

Reality: Many paved roads and highways exceed this in Tibet, Pakistan, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The highest paved highway I know of is the one between Arica Chile and La Paz Bolivia which reaches an elevation of near 16,500 feet.

Cerro de San Francisco – in...
In this area, the Arica to La Paz Highway reaches almost 16,500 feet.


Tall Tale #5

Trail Ridge is the highest continuous highway in the world.

Reality: See Tall Tale #4.

Tall Tale #6

Grand Mesa is the highest flat-topped mountain in the world.

Reality: The highest flat topped mountain in the world is only 11,300 feet high? I've seen a whole lot of flat topped mountains much higher than this, even in Colorado.

This is the un-named peak...
Does this mountain, also in Colorado, looked flat-topped to you?



Tall Tale #7

Grand Mesa is the largest area flat-topped mountain in the world.

Reality: the Guiana Highlands have many flat-topped mountains with larger areas, and I assume many other parts of the world do too (South Africa is one possibility). (Interestingly, Utah claims the same exact world record for Boulder Mountain, but it too is a tall tale).

RORAIMA
Most of the Guiana Highlands are composed of huge flat top mountains, and many are much larger than the one in this picture.


Images

Mount Evans July 2003

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Roam AroundGood Stuff

Hasn't voted

Funny thing is that I was ready to fully believe a few of those without question - they come from 'official' sources after all!

Posted Jul 26, 2006 10:48 pm

CharlesDArapaho Glacier

CharlesD

Voted 10/10

Also, the Arapaho Glacier is further south than the St. Vrain ones, so even "Southernmost in the Rockies" doesn't work.
Posted Jul 26, 2006 11:04 pm

Aaron JohnsonMount Cleveland

Aaron Johnson

Hasn't voted

Mount Cleveland, in Glacier National Park, has a huge north face, greater than 4,000 feet. Good idea, Scott! I like it!
Posted Jul 27, 2006 10:12 pm

ScottRe: Mount Cleveland

Scott

Hasn't voted

Thanks, I added it to the page. Check the below site to find out what the highest pass in Colorado supposedly is:

LINK

People will believe anything printed in a tourist brochure, I guess.
Posted Jul 27, 2006 11:10 pm

SaintgrizzlyColorado Tale Tales....

Saintgrizzly

Voted 10/10

Interesting indeed, Scott, but to be honest I'd never heard the claims for the Mt. Evans road and Trail Ridge Road expressed (at least not officially, and then only with the limiting factor of paved roads) as anything other than for North America—not the world.

It's always open for debate as to exactly what is a "sheer" face, and where does the exact measurement of such begin, but it's my understanding that Glacier N.P. has three faces that are generally accepted as 4,000+ feet, and are, in fact, the three "greatest" sheer faces in the Lower 48 (Cleveland, Gould, Siyeh—VERY different, and dangerous, rock from the solid Yosemite & El Capitan geology; whatever other attributes GNP possesses, it is definitely NOT known as a rock climbing paradise!—the Cleveland & Siyeh faces have only been climbed a couple times each, with both Siyeh efforts taking two nights on the face, and Gould has been climbed—supposedly, and as a solo—only once, without absolute verification of the claim). From the summit of Mt. Cleveland you can basically look "almost" straight down over 6,000 feet to Waterton Lake—a lofty view by any reckoning! Also, Glacier has too many 2,000+ foot faces to list—they just keep coming at you, and at you, and at...!

As a matter of perspective on "sheerness," check out this link to Mount Merritt. The face you see is (approximately) 4,500 feet, and at first glance certainly apears sheer—yet I've never seen it mentioned as one of the great "sheer" walls in the Contiguous U.S. I'm assuming other U.S. faces fall in the same "almost, but not quite" category. Whether they're "sheer" or not, they still come across as a joy to look at!

As for the Diamond on Longs Peak, it's simply(?) a great climbing face, but doesn't approach any kind of "vertical" record—or at least that's my take on it.

It would be good to know in the context of this forum: what is the "official" depth of both the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Zion Narrows?

EDIT: A quick Google search just answered my own question. The deepest point of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is at Warner Point, and is 2,722 feet deep. Zion Narrows is described by the NPS as, The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon: 16 miles long, up to 2000 feet deep, and at times only 20-30 feet wide. The two canyons are different enough it's like comparing apples and oranges, but the Black Canyon would seem to be quite a bit deeper.
Posted Jul 28, 2006 9:38 pm

ScottRe: Colorado Tale Tales....

Scott

Hasn't voted

Interesting indeed, Scott, but to be honest I'd never heard the claims for the Mt. Evans road and Trail Ridge Road expressed (at least not officially, and then only with the limiting factor of paved roads) as anything other than for North America—not the world.

The world claim is posted on the postcards they sell in those areas. It is also in several books and websites. One is below:

Trail Ridge Road is the park's star attraction and the world's highest continuous paved highway, topping out at 12,183 feet.

Here's just one on Mount Evans (from the New York Times!):

Mt. Evans Highway, which reaches an altitude of 14,270 ft, is the world's highest paved road

It's always open for debate as to exactly what is a "sheer" face

Yes true, but anyway you look at it, just as you said, the Diamond is not the second highest. With what you posted, it seems like MT has more as well.

EDIT: A quick Google search just answered my own question. The deepest point of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is at Warner Point, and is 2,722 feet deep. Zion Narrows is described by the NPS as, The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon: 16 miles long, up to 2000 feet deep, and at times only 20-30 feet wide. The two canyons are different enough it's like comparing apples and oranges, but the Black Canyon would seem to be quite a bit deeper.

Nope, not really, I know the reason behind the discrepancy. The Zion Narrows itself is 20-30 feet wide, and 2000 feet deep with perpendicular walls, but it also sits in a gorge itself (2700+ feet deep), still as narrow (but not more narrow) as the Black Canyon. However, the lower sections are way more narrow than the Black Canyon. I have provided map links for you to play around with just for fun. Move it around and tell me what you think:

Black Canyon

Zion Narrows

YOu are correct though, in the fact that it may be apples and oranges and measured differently. Move the links around and see what ou come up as to which is narrower and deeper. Since the Zion Narrows is a narrow gorge inside a deeper gorge, it may be just a difference in measurement techniques, but see what you think. It may be too subjective, so I may have to change this one.

PS, does MT have any tall tales you might share? Could be interesting.
Posted Jul 29, 2006 1:14 am

Ammon HatchGreat Read!

Ammon Hatch

Hasn't voted

Intersting how Utah beats out Colorado on a few of those :)
Posted Jul 30, 2006 9:26 pm

SaintgrizzlyInteresting, cont'd....

Saintgrizzly

Voted 10/10

From the links you provided on Trail Ridge Rd and the Mt Evans Hwy, Scott, it seems they're still claiming the elevation record for paved roads. So...

Reality: Many paved roads and highways exceed this in Tibet, Pakistan, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The highest paved highway I know of is the one between Arica Chile and La Paz Bolivia which reaches an elevation of near 16,500 feet.

My question is: are you sure these roads are paved? Not disputing, just wondering—I've seen many pictures of S. American mountain roads, and from what I've seen, they're not paved. I've certainly not seen them all, though, and don't remember ever seeing the one you specifically mention. Like I say, just wondering....

I couldn't really make much from the Topozone maps. I suppose the criteria would be the elevation for the two respective rivers versus the canyon rims. The issue isn't one of narrowness--to repeat myself, they're so different that comparison in that regard is meaningless. You'd think the NPS, in referencing the Zion Narrows would include, or mention, the extra 2700', or the fact (if I'm understanding correctly) that one gorge sits in another, and that the "other" is even greater in depth.(?)
Posted Jul 31, 2006 5:20 am

ScottRe: Interesting, cont'd....

Scott

Hasn't voted

My question is: are you sure these roads are paved? Not disputing, just wondering—I've seen many pictures of S. American mountain roads, and from what I've seen, they're not paved.

The ones I mentioned were. The KKH highway was completed in 1978. The Arica to La Paz route was paved in 1990 or 1991.

Interestingly though, the La Paz International Airport itself is at 13,474 feet/4168 meters. Since the international airport is connected to the other parts of the country via paved roads, that really blows the Trail Ridge claim out of the water. I would bet the International Airport has been there for quite a bit of time, but I don’t know when it was built. (Some other paved roads exisiting in the 1970’s or before that are higher than Trail Ridge are as follows: Lima to Morococha; Cuzco to Santa Rosa; and even La Paz to Lake Titicaca, and many roads in La Paz itself).

The Mount Evans claim may have had some merit sometime before 1972 (?), but certainly not after that. The road La Paz to Cumbre is paved, and my 1972 map shows it as being paved even back then. The town of Cumbre itself is 4660 meters/15256 feet, and the road goes over a higher pass to the east (no marked elevation) before descending to the lowlands. So I guess at one time, the Mount Evans road actually did hold the record for the highest paved road, but not for at least 34 years.

The Trail Ridge claim though, seems rather ludicrous. That record, if it ever existed has long since been broken many decades ago. Since La Paz itself is a city of over 8.3 million, and the city center itself is at 12,000 feet, with the airport section “Alti-La Paz” at almost 13,500 feet, it just seems silly to claim the Trail Ridge as the worlds highest.

I wouldn’t know any tall tale claims for Montana, but here are some for other states. Here’s some good ones for you:

Check out the official Wyoming State Travel Website:

The second largest national forest outside of Alaska, the Bridger Teton National Forest (BTNF) stretches from Yellowstone National Park along the eastern border of Grand Teton National Park and the western slope of the Continental Divide to the southern end of the Wind Rivers. The tallest peak in Wyoming (Gannett Peak, 13,804 feet) as well as 40 named mountains over 12,000 feet are in the BTNF. Seven of the largest glaciers outside of Alaska are within forest boundaries.

Now, I’m sure that most people on Summitpost, especially those that are familiar with the Cascades will tell you that that claim is just ridiculous! The glaciers in Wyoming, while spectacular, are no where near the size of the ones in the Cascade Mountains.

Another tall tale is that Hells Canyon along the ID/OR border is the deepest canyon in the world. Truth is, it isn’t even remotely close, no matter how you measure it!
Posted Jul 31, 2006 3:31 pm

awillsonRe: Interesting, cont'd....

awillson

Hasn't voted

For the Wyoming claim, they just say 7 of the largest but don't specify further. The way that claim is stated, it is true. It could be, "7 of the (500) largest glaciers outside of Alaska..."
Posted Aug 23, 2006 11:53 pm

seth@LOKIfun stuff thanks all

seth@LOKI

Hasn't voted

thankd for th geographcial fun boys I love it. I'm still gonna spin the Grand Mesa largest in flat topped mountain in the North America though...
But it's not even that flat.
See > Leon Peak 11,230
Posted Jul 31, 2006 8:18 pm

awillsonRoads

awillson

Hasn't voted

I've never heard that trail ridge or Mt Evans were the highest roads in the world. Just that they were the highest in N. America, which they are.
Posted Aug 1, 2006 3:18 pm

ScottRe: Roads

Scott

Hasn't voted

I've never heard that trail ridge or Mt Evans were the highest roads in the world.

See an above message for a few internet links for the claims, and the postcards sold in the area do claim so.

Just that they were the highest in N. America, which they are.

Yep, they are the highest paved highways, but still not the highest roads, even in North America.
Posted Aug 1, 2006 3:44 pm

BeDrinkableHells Canyon

BeDrinkable

Voted 10/10

"Another tall tale is that Hells Canyon along the ID/OR border is the deepest canyon in the world. Truth is, it isn’t even remotely close, no matter how you measure it!"

Can't say I've heard that claim. I've seen the claim that it's the deepest in North America.
Posted Aug 1, 2006 6:43 pm

ScottRe: Hells Canyon

Scott

Hasn't voted

Can't say I've heard that claim.

Well, you have now. Just click on a link below (just a few of many):

Here

Here

Here
Posted Aug 1, 2006 7:54 pm

rpcFun stuff!

rpc

Voted 10/10

Nice idea!
Posted Aug 1, 2006 8:16 pm

DigglerRegarding TT#2

Diggler

Hasn't voted

Climbing magazine states: "Not counting Alaska, & behind El Capitan and the north face of Notch Peak, the Painted Wall [of the Black Canyon] is officially the third tallest wall in the country." Guess it depends on one's criteria in determining what a "wall" is.

Fun read.
Posted Aug 2, 2006 7:40 pm

SaintgrizzlyMore....

Saintgrizzly

Voted 10/10

Another tall tale is that Hells Canyon along the ID/OR border is the deepest canyon in the world. Truth is, it isn’t even remotely close, no matter how you measure it!

As far as claims and rebuttals go, anyone can say anything. Two of the above links reference Hells Canyon as the deepest "river-carved" canyon in the world. Well, okay. Scott, you say that isn't so. Again, okay. BUT... The disagreement on your part, which I'm assuming is accurate, needs more. I admit--for example--to having wondered as a matter of curiosity about the world's highest mountain, or coldest or hottest or wettest places, but have never given any thinking time to "deepest canyon"--so if I read where Hell's Canyon is indeed the world's deepest canyon, I have a tendency, unless the source is obviously bogus, to accept the claim at face value, if not as an absolute fact, at least that here is something extraordinary, and worth investigating.

Two of the three links above reference Hells Canyon as "river-carved," which seems to imply some limiting factor, as though there are deeper canyons that aren't such (whatever cause that might be), but you're saying (Another tall tale is that Hells Canyon along the ID/OR border is the deepest canyon in the world. Truth is, it isn’t even remotely close, no matter how you measure it!) that's not accurate. I'm assuming you're right. What I'd like to know is...what's deeper? And it isn't even remotely close implies a substantial difference...which is how much?

As for the Wind River glacier boast, I'd almost assume the writer of the claim is referencing just the Rockies, and somehow managed to do it only in his/her mind--meaning it came out as a "boast" incompassing the Contiguous U.S. as a whole, including, of course the Cascades, which I've always been told have more glaciers than the Rockies. It would, however, be interesting to see glacier-area figures for the remaining glaciated areas in the "Lower 48." My understanding is that of the remaining parts of the country with glaciers, the "Big Three," in descending order, are the Cascades, Wind Rivers, and Glacier N.P.

Whatever...just wondering about all this.
Posted Aug 3, 2006 3:32 am

ScottRe: More....

Scott

Hasn't voted

Two of the three links above reference Hells Canyon as "river-carved," which seems to imply some limiting factor, as though there are deeper canyons that aren't such (whatever cause that might be), but you're saying (Another tall tale is that Hells Canyon along the ID/OR border is the deepest canyon in the world. Truth is, it isn’t even remotely close, no matter how you measure it!) that's not accurate. I'm assuming you're right. What I'd like to know is...what's deeper? And it isn't even remotely close implies a substantial difference...which is how much?

The deepest canyons in the world are in the Himalayas. Besides their height, there is one extremely unusual thing about the Himalayas. They do not form a continental divide. All the rivers in southern Tibet actually cut through the Himalayas. The major rivers cut through canyons around 15,000 feet.

By some measurements the deepest of them all is the Kali Gendaki River Gorge, which is claimed to be 19,000 feet deep. This however isn’t an average depth, but mearly the deepest point. In most places the average depth of the Kali Gendaki is “only” 12,000 feet or so for the 50 mile or so length between Muztang and Tatopani. So, if the average depth of the canyon is only 12,000 feet, where does the 19,000 feet measurement posted in so many books come from? It comes from the measurements of the river bottom between Annapurna and Dhalagiri. The river bottom between the two is at around 8,000 feet. The two summits are only twenty two miles apart summit to summit and are 26,795 feet and 26545 feet respectively. Kind of a weird way of measuring depth if you ask me, but either way the Kali Gendaki is still a very deep gorge and may be the world’s deepest by average depth. Any way you measure it though, it’s still deeper than Hells Canyon by a long shot. It’s quite an impressive hike if you ever get the chance. One of my favorites.

Below is a pretty good photo of the gorge looking down into it from above. Keep in mind that at this point of the photo, Tatopani is at the bottom of the gorge (which is in the shadows and out of sight-the bottom of the gorge can't be seen in the photo, but you get the idea) and at only 3800 feet elevation:

Looking back down into the Kali Gendaki Gorge

Besides the Kali Gendaki the famous rivers slicing through the Himalayas such as the Ganges form gorges 12-15,000 feet deep, depending on the river and on how the depths are measured.

So what do you think about my “not even remotely close” statement? Pretty accurate statement I would say, no matter what way you measure it (which might not be the case with Zion Narrows and Black Canyon).

Interestingly though, like the USA, other countries are quick to get in on the Tall Tale action. South America, like the USA, will ignore the Himalayas, and claim that theirs are the deepest canyons. See some links below:

Cotahuasi Canyon

Cotahuasi Canyon

Cotahuasi Canyon

Colca Canyon

Although a very impressive depths of the Colca and Cotahuasi Canyons are around 11,000 feet deep, it’s still bested by the Himalayas. Obviously though, the two canyons above are both deeper than Hells Canyon, and river carved.

As for the Wind River glacier boast, I'd almost assume the writer of the claim is referencing just the Rockies, and somehow managed to do it only in his/her mind--meaning it came out as a "boast" incompassing the Contiguous U.S. as a whole, including, of course the Cascades, which I've always been told have more glaciers than the Rockies.

Yes, and that’s a good point. A superlative for one area is applied to a much larger area, such as the lower 48 as a whole, or the world as a whole. Such is the case with all the Tall Tales in the article. Once a tall tale gets out there, it is reprinted and used several times. The Wind Rivers claim for example, has been used in guidebooks, coffee table books, tourist websites, and in some Wyoming museums.

It would, however, be interesting to see glacier-area figures for the remaining glaciated areas in the "Lower 48." My understanding is that of the remaining parts of the country with glaciers, the "Big Three," in descending order, are the Cascades, Wind Rivers, and Glacier N.P.

And see the stats you shall. There is a good SP conversation on the matter and with posted stats on the link below when someone else posted the Wind River claim to Summit Post:

Summitpost discussion
Posted Aug 3, 2006 2:22 pm

BeDrinkablecanyons etc.

BeDrinkable

Voted 10/10

Thanks for the canyon discussion Scott! After seeing your earlier comment I became curious and assumed (without investigation) that it must be somewhere in Asia. The Ganges sprung immediately to mind, but I hadn't even considered the Himalayas (for some reason). A google search turned up both Cotahuasi and Colca. It's interesting to think about all the factoids that I've heard and taken as fact but are most likely false.
Posted Aug 3, 2006 4:42 pm

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