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The Obscurity Conundrum

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The Obscurity Conundrum

Page Type: Article

Object Title: The Obscurity Conundrum

 

Page By: Bob Sihler

Created/Edited: May 12, 2013 / Jun 2, 2013

Object ID: 849388

Hits: 2396 

Page Score: 88.86%  - 28 Votes 

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To Post or Not To Post?

Peak 8466
Lots of people see this unnamed peak, though not from this angle.  Very few climb it.  It's one of my favorites.  Why, then, invite everyone to it?

That is the question.

Before I go on, let me state that what follows is based on personal feelings and judgments.  Although I am a site moderator, what I am going to talk about is not a new SP policy and is not under discussion as a new policy.  Also, I am not going to bring it up for discussion among the staff as a new site policy.

But please read with an open mind and consider this as something SP contributors might want to think about.

So...

I have deleted almost all of my pages for peaks that have no official names and no locally or historically accepted unofficial names as well.  By this, I mean the many "Point..." and "Peak..." pages I had posted, not peaks unofficially named for the benchmarks found on them.  In a few cases, I changed the page to a trip report or route or incorporated essential information into another page, and there are two over which I'm still pondering what to do, but most of the pages are gone.  So are many of the pictures, though I left several behind if they were relevant to other pages.

With a few exceptions, the deleted pages were from the Calico Hills of Nevada's Red Rock Canyon (no great loss-- locals climb those peaks all the time, they are easily seen from the road, and anyone with decent route-finding skills will find his or her way up) and the wilderness areas of Montana and Wyoming.

Why have I done this, especially since I have long been among those who think SP's greatest value is as a source of information for obscure peaks and since I still am among those?

Reasons:

  • With very few exceptions, no one had signed the climber's logs, leading me to think few members were using the pages.
  • These pages had far fewer hits than did pages for named peaks in the same area written by me and other SP members, suggesting that few non-members were using the pages as well.
  • How many people are really putting something like "Point 8466, Rocky Mountain Front, Montana" into search engines, anyway?  
  • I suspect that most people interested in such peaks are less interested in others' beta and more interested in finding their own ways to the summits.
  • Finally, and most importantly, some of the peaks in question are among my all-time favorites, and I am a lover of obscure peaks for which there is little or no beta, so exactly why was I posting beta on those peaks?  Power Points?  Vanity?  Boredom?  To show off my pictures?  All I can say for sure to that is that I know I most certainly was not posting the beta out of a desire to invite the rest of the world to those summits.
Collectively, those pages took a lot of time to create, especially the ones for which I also added a route page or two (also deleted), so this was not an easy decision to make, but as time has passed since the deletions, I have come to feel better and better about what I did, especially in the cases of peaks whose summits had few or no traces of prior human visits.

Take, for example, the peak shown above, and also the one in this page's Primary Image.  The included caption expresses some thoughts about the first.  The second-- not visible from any roads, it truly is a wilderness gem.  As far as I know, the only trail with a view of it requires a long trip to get to that view.  For the most part, the peak is only visible from other obscure peaks and ridges.  Although it wasn't that difficult to climb it, I found no obvious signs of previous human visits, which does not prove no prior ascents but does suggest that very few ever go there, likely because it is unnamed and remote and reaching it requires a long drive with rugged sections and three stream crossings.

So why exactly do I want to trumpet these mountains' secrets to all the world?

---------------

Pages that are gone:

Absaroka Range, WY
  • "Steercalf Mountain" (Point 12,327)
  • Point 11,883
  • "Bear Creek Pass Peak" (Point 11,694)
Point 12,327
12,327

Peak 11,883
11,883

Point 11,694
11,694



Beartooth Range, MT
  • "Little Thunder Mountain" (Point 10,583T)
(Note-- information for this peak still exists; I incorporated it into the Thunder Mountain page.)

Peak 10,583T, Little Thunder Mountain
Little Thunder Mountain



Calico Hills-- Red Rock Canyon, NV
  • "West Calico Tank Peak" (Point 4850)
  • "Tinaja Peak" (Point 4760)
  • "Sandstone Quarry Peak" (Point 4708)
  • "Red Book Peak" (Point 4608)
West Calico Tank Peak
West Calico Tank Peak

Tinaja Peak from Turtlehead
Tinaja Peak-- left-hand formation in the foreground

Sandstone Quarry
Sandstone Quarry Peak-- point to the left

Point 4608
Red Book Peak



Death Valley National Park, CA
  • "Leadfield Peak" 
Leadfield Peak
Leadfield Peak



Gros Ventre Range, WY
  • Point 10,700 (noted in the Bonney Guide as "Terrace Peak" although it shouldn't be)
  • "Pillar Peak" (Point 10,405)
(Note-- information on these peaks still exists; I incorporated it into the Terrace Peak page.)

Point 10,700
10,700

Points 10,405 and 10,285
Pillar Peak



Madison Range, MT
  • "Jerome Rock Peak" (Point 10,175)
Alpine Tarn
Point 10,175


Rocky Mountain Front, MT
  • "Headquarters Peak" (Point 8789)
  • "Hidden Lake Peak" (Point 8466)
  • "Blindhorse Peak" (Point 8295)
Point 8789
8789

Point 8466 and Our Lake
8466

South Ridge
8295


Sawtooth Range, ID
  • Point 9337
Point 9337
9337


---------------

Pages I'm still pondering over:
  • "Eagle Canyon Pinnacle" (San Rafael Swell, UT)
  • "Badlands Peak" (Death Valley NP)
Beauty Among the Ugliness
Eagle Canyon Pinnacle

Badlands Peak, Dawn
Badlands Peak

Eagle Canyon Pinnacle is easily seen from I-70, from which it is little more than a stone's throw away, in Utah's San Rafael Swell.  Even though the name is something I made up and I haven't found any other climbing information about it on the Internet, posting a page on this easily visible and easily accessible formation is not exactly spilling the secrets of the wilderness.  Thus, I don't feel so conflicted about posting that page.

Deciding what to do about the Badlands Peak page involves factors that are almost identical.  Prominently visible from Zabriskie Point, probably the most popular roadside stop in Death Valley National Park after Badwater, Badlands Peak is hardly a prize beheld by only a few hardy backcountry travelers.  It's probably been photographed by millions of people.  However, it's been climbed by few (but there is a cairn at the summit), and climbing it from Zabriskie Point feels like a wilderness experience because it takes one into and through some rugged, spectacular desert terrain that most certainly will not appeal to most casual hikers even though the route is not very long (1.5-2 miles to the summit).

---------------

Again, I am not proposing a new site policy here.  Admittedly, I hope this essay will make some people who have posted pages like the ones I did take a closer look at why they have done so and whether it was a good thing to do.  But I am not shouting out that everyone should just delete all their pages for unnamed peaks.

In closing, I want to offer two apologies:
  • First, an apology to anyone who has been even partially motivated to post pages like the one I have deleted because I have helped set that precedent.  If you now feel burned by my about-face on an issue I once saw from the opposite side I do now, I apologize.
  • Second, an apology to anyone who has posted pages like the ones I have deleted and who feels that this essay devalues his or her efforts in creating those pages.  That is not my intention at all.  The pages on these kinds of peaks are among the best and most valuable on SP, and you have made these pages for relatively little recognition and return since the masses here tend to view and vote on the pages for popular peaks, even when the author has not climbed the peak.  I am simply questioning why we lovers of the obscure and the overlooked want to publicize these pristine places that inspire us so.





Images

Point 12,327

Comments


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Viewing: 1-20 of 32 « PREV 1 2 NEXT » 

jacobsmith"Power Points? Vanity? Boredom?"

jacobsmith

Voted 10/10

Why do we post summitpost pages after all? you make a good point about not really doing it for the altruistic love of beta - its not like we actually want everyone to go to these places. It seems to me that we think of summitpost pages almost the way better climbers think about first ascents, to have the summitpost page for a peak feels like a kind of first ascent, which explains why so many mountain and route pages read like trip reports. I am not sure how comfortable i am with glory - "Power Points, Vanity" - as a motivation. On one hand, historically it has always been an integral part of mountaineering, but on the other i feel like the things we do should be their own justification.
Anyways, thanks for the very thought-provoking article.
Posted May 13, 2013 12:16 pm

Bob SihlerRe:

Bob Sihler

Hasn't voted

Jacob, I think you have nailed it when it comes to my motives for posting these peaks. And that is why I deleted the pages; they were really glorified summit logs.

Thanks!
Posted Jun 2, 2013 9:01 pm

ScottAnother important reason

Scott

Hasn't voted

Here's one important reason to keep "pretty" pictures, some beta on places like the San Rafael Swell.

Places like that, even though extremely beautiful are viewed by some as nothing but wasteland to be exploited for whatever reason.

Having photographs and information on such places brings attention to their beauty, even if people are just looking at the pictures. In my view, the more that see how beautiful places without visitors are, the more people that want to protect it.

I admit that such was the primary motivation behind at least several of my pages such as Cross Mountain, Buckwater Draw, etc.

If something is already a protected monument, park, wilderness area, etc, fine, but if something is a battleground and only proposed, and we are in danger of losing much of it (such as the San Rafael Swell where one of the pages you are thinking of deleting is), it can do good by having information and photographs out there, even to those who might no set foot in those place.

We all need/use oil, etc, but in a slot canyon not that far from Buckwater Draw, for example, an oil company thought the slot canyon would make a great place to dump all their road waste for a road cut. This they actually did.

I usually try to keep politics off my pages, but having the information/photos out there can bring awareness to some of the remote areas that are viewed by some as nothing but wastelands to be exploited. Personally, I would suggest keeping your page on the Eagle Canyon Pinnacle even though it is close to the road.

If you are worried about having a page where no one would use the beta, don't worry that much. I already was planning on using your beta for the Eagle Canyon Pinnacle.

I also wonder if someone would use some of my beta for some of the more obscure places I have posted, and haven't been putting as many pages up in those areas that I used to. I'm not that afraid of having a place overrun because of an SP page, but I guess it could happen on occasion.
Posted May 13, 2013 5:31 pm

Matt LemkeRe: Another important reason

Matt Lemke

Voted 10/10

We are in danger of losing the San Rafael Swell?

Scott, Please explain about this potential world-ending catastrophe!
Posted May 22, 2013 6:09 pm

ScottRe: Another important reason

Scott

Hasn't voted

Perhaps this is better discussion for something outside this page, but to put it very briefly, the current Utah governor and his cohorts have filed several lawsuits about the region being public federal lands.

39,000 miles of roads, many of them non-existent have been claimed to keep the area from having any protection. Some of the claims are a joke to those who know the area. For example, Quandary Canyon is being claimed as a road. Yes, the upper section with the rappels that is on your page and requires ropes to access.

The state has also filed a lawsuit prohibiting law enforcement from enforcing/giving tickets to those who ATV off trail, etc.

Those kinds of things make me feel that getting more exposure to the wild areas such as the San Rafael Swell could actually be a good thing. The more people that see how beautiful it is will hopefully be the more people that want it protected.
Posted Jun 1, 2013 10:20 am

Bob SihlerRe: Another important reason

Bob Sihler

Hasn't voted

Excellent point, Scott. I will not delete the Eagle Canyon Pinnacle page and will post some other Swell pictures I have. Even though I live far away, I do realize the danger the Swell is in. For the most part, the pages I deleted are for peaks in places that already have about as much protection as they will ever get, but the Swell is a fragile place in a state that is demonstrably not friendly to long-range conservation concerns and never has been.
Posted Jun 2, 2013 9:04 pm

phattyRe: Another important reason

phatty

Hasn't voted

San Rafael Swell was already taken from the "public" few years back (factory butte closure). Public access to public lands for all including those who see fit to use OHVs for access. I do agree with you that irresponsible use of OHV should be met with stiff fines and punishment. We certainly have more wilderness in this country than is being used. People get too worked up thinking they are going to drill the canyonlands or arches for oil...
Posted Jul 11, 2013 5:16 pm

ScottRe: Another important reason

Scott

Hasn't voted

San Rafael Swell was already taken from the "public" few years back (factory butte closure).

Factory Butte was a proposed wilderness long before there was such thing as an ATV. Too bad the ATV’ers ruined it, but in my opinion, it’s already a lost cause. It was stolen from the people, but what’s done is done.

I have personally witnessed much abuse in the San Rafael Swell over a period of several decades (I have been going there since at least 1981; others much longer than me).

In most areas of Utah, more roads have been created than been closed. There are very few exceptions.

Public access to public lands for all including those who see fit to use OHVs for access.

Unless they have a physical disability, nothing is stopping them from going there. It is a vehicle banned, not a person.

If disability is an issue and providing access to all is really the main issue, then all these new ATV tracks should have to meet ADA requirements. I have been a civil engineer for many years and am well familiar with the requirements and am willing to share them.

Of course, this is a discussion more appropriate for the forum than Bob’s page.
Posted Jul 11, 2013 5:51 pm

mrchad9For me...

mrchad9

Voted 10/10

I see nothing wrong with highlighting obscure places and encouraging folks to go visit them. I've run across a few pages here, not always 'obscure' ones though, that have encouraged me to go visit new areas. I think it is great. And more often than not when visiting an obscure place like these you'll be all alone. If dozens of others go, but are in solitude when they are there, it's pretty much unchanged isn't it? I mean... what difference does it make if someone else visited it two weeks ago or 10 years ago... so long as you are all alone when you are up there.

It's nice to find your own way too though. Folks are free to do that always. There's an infinite number of places out there, I think the balance will always be there. I've not posted things too. Some of my favorite trips in Yosemite were doing the highest 30 peaks there. Some are unnamed and don't have info on the internet about them. I submitted a list page, which I hope encourages some folks to seek some of them out (a couple likely hadn't been visited in 10+ years) yet still the only info they will find here is a name and lat/long coordinates.
Posted May 14, 2013 4:16 pm

Bob SihlerRe: For me...

Bob Sihler

Hasn't voted

I can't disagree philosophically. In the end, it came down to the fact that I was posting for the wrong reasons. As JacobSmith suggested, sometimes we make pages that are more like FA accounts, and I realized I posted certain peaks not to share but to show. Never did I want to invite others to some of those places, but that is exactly what I did by posting them.
Posted Jun 2, 2013 9:08 pm

MarcsoltanIf nothing else,...

Marcsoltan

Voted 10/10

these pages are good for the record. Ten years down the road someone may climb what you have already done and claim a first ascent. I know you don't care about that, but recorded information is important on its own merit. Who cares about the number of hits on a page! Some day, long after you and I are long gone, the information hungry climber of the future will be interested on the pile of rocks that you just deleted the pages on. He is going to wonder if he can get some info on his "heads-up-display" mounted onto his cornea, or his brain for that matter. He will be very unhappy to find out that there is none.
Bob, I'd say you should keep the rest of your obscure pages.
Posted May 14, 2013 11:33 pm

Bob SihlerRe: If nothing else,...

Bob Sihler

Hasn't voted

You've made a very good point. If someone else make a "first ascent," though, there are still pictures here to contradict that.

The bottom line for me was the realization that I was not posting those pages for the right reasons. The truly intrepid will still find a way up those peaks if they want to, and that's as it should be, and that's something I admire.
Posted Jun 2, 2013 9:12 pm

musicman82Good Read!

musicman82

Voted 10/10

Thanks for posting this Bob!

As someone who has hiked many of the obscure unnamed peaks with you, I definitely appreciate your sentiments here! It got me thinking about my own pages, about half of which are just "Point" or "Peak" pages; I went through a period about a year where I wondered if they were doing any good, but I guess I selfishly just enjoyed having them there as almost a hiking/climbing diary. However, recently, a local hiking club has been using many of these pages that I had concluded were useless on their outings, and I've received compliments and thanks for introducing them to places they may have not considered visiting in the Big Horn Basin and Absarokas. This has made me feel like the pages do have a purpose and are accomplishing the goal of providing beta and info that would have been nice to have when I was out figuring out routes, especially in regard to road conditions and public/private lands.

The other reason I have is that, as peakbagging grows in popularity, more and people are going to be seeking out these obscure summits, and if I've decided not to write a page or written a good page and then deleted it, there's the risk that someone will bring down the site by posting a subpar page in its place. Maybe that's a dumb reason given the new site features regarding improving pages, but I'm just throwing out my thoughts here...

Anyway - thanks for writing this; it's helped clarify some ideas for me!

Tim
Posted May 18, 2013 3:26 pm

Bob SihlerRe: Good Read!

Bob Sihler

Hasn't voted

Please don't take offense, but what you've written actually reinforces my decision to delete those pages.

You see, I never really wanted to invite others to most of those summits. A principal reason I went after those peaks was the fact that they were obscure and unnamed and climbed seldom or never, and I derived great pleasure knowing that as I stood upon their summits. Eventually, I came to think that I had actually betrayed those peaks by seeking their secrets and then exposing them. I've even had second thoughts about Dollar Mountain since I can still find no climbing reports other than ours!

And if someone makes a weak page whereas mine might have been good, maybe that would actually be a good thing. Think about it.

By the way, did you get my email about August plans a few weeks ago?
Posted Jun 2, 2013 9:21 pm

BobSmithDisagree.

BobSmith

Voted 10/10

Just because a point or peak or location doesn't have an "official name" is a poor reason for killing off a post or avoiding listing it.

Nice post, though!
Posted May 22, 2013 2:22 pm

Bob SihlerRe: Disagree.

Bob Sihler

Hasn't voted

I agree in principle but have to disagree based upon my motive. It was not really to share or to provide beta.
Posted Jun 2, 2013 9:26 pm

yatsekDiscussing your reasons

yatsek

Voted 9/10

1-3 not important
4 Finding one's own route does not necessarily mean that one is not interested in others' beta
5 Why were you posting those peaks? Well, how about sharing what you've experienced with other mountain lovers, including those who have no chance of getting there? Besides, your first three points contradict your final statement, don't they?
In conclusion, please don't delete pages about hidden gems unless they're really close to civilization.
Posted May 23, 2013 4:54 pm

splattskiObscure = good

splattski

Hasn't voted

I was going to give a reasoned argument, but instead, I just want to say that I enjoy obscure peaks, both in real life and here on SummitPost.
Posted May 23, 2013 9:26 pm

Josh LewisEncouragement

Josh Lewis

Hasn't voted

The biggest reason I post on obscure places is that anything that further motivates people to go out and explore the world is worth posting. So if my page inspires only a few people or even one out of thousands of people who might visit the page, it was worth writing. I believe in the freedom of choice for the explorer. If you don't want the beta, go climb without it. I've climbed without beta that I knew was completely available but simply didn't use it.

Also sometimes you end up doing some scum bag route that you thought was horrible (loose rocks, tons of cuts from sticker bushes, dangerous, ect). I think a route page describing such things will either mentally prepare one for it or inform them to stay away from that place. The more remote, the more likely this is going to happen. With enough info out in public it might keep the less die hard explorers from doing adventures that make them want to give up doing obscure peaks.

The eye candy on my pages isn't all a flower show to show off my art and styling skills. It's to help inspire adventure, creativity, and to be unique.
Posted May 23, 2013 10:26 pm

Mike LewisBrouhaha.

Mike Lewis

Voted 10/10

I feel sorry about all the negative brouhaha. But seriously. This is summitpost, not hermitpost, nor is it preservationpost or John Roper post, nor is it The Mountaineers' doppelganger site. Your gems will be safe but the overwhelming response seems to be that everybody wants to be communists(hyperbole).

Now, being an artist and coming from that perspective, I can tell you there were many times I considered (and did) delete or burn my paintings and drawings that I felt weren't noteworthy or didn't belong in the public eye. So in a sense you have done a great job expressing something I've grappled with myself.
Posted May 24, 2013 1:05 am

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