Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

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triyoda

 
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Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by triyoda » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:54 am

I will preface this by saying that the only list I have completed is the Adirondack 46 and that list is a total mess. Nominally it represents the 46 highest peaks (over 4000') in the Adirondacks, however at least four of the peaks are under 4K', at least one 4K' is omitted and many of the peaks are not actually ranked (have insufficient prominence). However, this is a great list, with a great history and because there is an "official" 46er club, the list is not really disputed, that is just the list of peaks to climb to become a registered "46er"

I live in Oregon now and even before I moved out here I was doing a lot of trips around the country and working on other lists. The list I am furthest along is the CO 14ers and/or Centennials (41 down, mostly 14ers). The 14er list is mostly official, 53 if you are doing "ranked" and 58 if you go for all the "named" peaks. Gerry Roach's excellent guide books (13ers and 14ers) sets pretty consistent rules and applies the 300 feet of prominence rule, which I understand to be the USGS standard.

Now OR and WA top 100 lists seem a little inconsistent. The Washington list is based on 400' of prominence, but at least the list seems pretty comprehensive and not really disputed, beyond minor differences between the "Bulger" list (which includes a few unranked, but significant peaks like Mt. Sahale) and the official ranked list. I feel like since WA has a lot of "mountaineering" peaks and a pretty rich climbing history (via Fred Beckey and others) things are pretty squared away.

The most official OR list I can find is based on 500' of prominence, however this excludes a number of significant peaks that make the 300' prominence (Matterhorn, Glacier Peak). Likewise, the OR list doesn't seem as official and includes some unnamed peaks. I'm pretty sure only one person even claims to have done all of the OR 100.

Just curious what your thoughts are on this. Anyone have any idea why the OR and WA lists don't use the 300' rule and then don't even use the same alternate standard (400 vs. 500 feet)? Does OR needs a real guide book or something more definitive for it's list, or is the OR list not even worth the bother because the quality of a number of the peaks is just not up to the standards of WA and CA. Obviously you could make a top 100 for any state (even Missouri) but it wouldn't be worth the trip and nobody would be interested.

Part of the reason I ask these questions is I was thinking of trying to develop a new "hybrid" OR list based on elevation, prominence, importance (county, NP, state highpoint) that was more in the range of 50 peaks. I feel like the ADK46 and CO 14ers are great lists, around the optimum number of peaks to make it challenging, but not a life commitment. Even the CO centennials is not too bad. WA 100 is a good list, but it is very difficult and is not realistic for anyone who does not live in state and is not committed to being a serious climber. But that's fine, like a dozen people have done it, so its not impossible and the list has lots of quality peaks so there is nothing to critique in my mind.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by rgg » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:12 pm

I will preface my reply by saying that I haven't completed any peak list worth mentioning. In Europe, highpointing isn't as big as in the USA. There are some lists that people strive for, and the best know are all the Munros in Scotland and all the 4000-ers in the Alps. Both lists are partially inconsistent, and in both cases it's about prominence.

The list of Munros includes mountains in Scotland that are at least 3000 ft high. Whenever new, accurate measurements are been made, the 3000 ft criterion is hard: a peak that's too low is not a Munro. However, the prominence criterion is not unequivocally clear. If it's at least 500 ft, it will be on the list, but if it's less, it's a judgement call. The official list is revised from time to time, and currently contains 282 peaks. If I would live in Scotland, I'm sure I would be tempted.

To qualify for the list of 4000-ers in the Alps, a peak must be at least 4000 m high. In this case, there isn't really a prominence criterion. Over the years, various mountaineers made up their own list, by whatever criteria they liked. More often than not, if a peak looked clearly separate from a certain angle, it would be included. Obviously, this is highly subjective. Some years ago, the UIAA declared a list of 82 summits. There is a decent Wikipedia article about it. The listed peak with the lowest prominence is Punta Giordanu, with just 5 m above the key saddle with Piramide Vincent. Still, for what it's worth, mountaineers aiming to bag all 4000-ers in the Alps usually follow this list. I don't know how many have completed it. As for me, I like climbing big glaciated peaks, but I'm not particularly drawn to insignificant subsidiaries.

As of last summer, I'm aiming to climb all European country high points. It's been done, but there is no agreed upon list, and even compiling one already poses a big problem. One of the main issues is that there is no uniform agreement on the precise border of Europe, but that's not the only problem (see here for more information).

In the end, unless there is an official body, anyone can make a list, and whatever list you come up with, others can always find fault with it. But until it's official, somehow, it's your list, so you can do whatever you like. If you like to rock the boat, why don't you start your Oregon list with a cutoff of, say, 2500 m, with prominence at least 500 m? After compiling that list, you can simply adjust your prominence criterion until your list has 50 or so peaks. If it gets popular, surely people will get into a heated argument about using meters instead of feet.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by ExcitableBoy » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:35 pm

The Bulger list was gerrymandered to exclude the most difficult summits in the range.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by seano » Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:07 pm

ExcitableBoy wrote:The Bulger list was gerrymandered to exclude the most difficult summits in the range.

Which do you have in mind? I've done about half of (some version of) the Bulgers, and it looks like there are 5 with less than 300' prominence: Sahale, Horseshoe, Dark, Rahm, and Little Annapurna. Looking at the peakbagger.com top 200 list, the northern Pickets and Hozomeen are all outside the top 100.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by surgent » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:33 pm

Prominence-based lists are still relatively new --- the ability to determine prominence for just about any peak using a computer didn't take off until the early 2000s or so. Prior to then, it was "obvious" which peaks had big prominence but not so much for the ones near cutoffs, and it was likely that not all peaks of a certain prominence had been catalogued. Thus, the lists were a mix of what information was available and "old favorites".

The prominence of any peak is (theoretically) well defined, but the decision as to what the cut-off is for a peak to count is still arbitrary. The 300-foot rule has no scientific basis. It sounded good. Ideally, the cut-off should achieve a happy middle --- too high and a bunch of interesting spires and bumps get excluded, too low and every little bump is included. Perhaps in Washington, 500 feet "sounds right". In Alaska, 500 feet might result in a list that is way too lengthy.

I like elevation and prominence lists because they are objectively based, but I also appreciate lists that include a little subjectivity ... but not so that it's entirely subjective, and thus, prone to change on a whim.

I like your idea of a "elevation, prominence, importance" list. Years ago, a pal of mine suggested creating the Arizona "Wow" list of 50 peaks in the state, which I thought was clever. It would include most of the major objectively-defined peaks (by elevation, prom) but also a few that make the list because they're so interesting for other reasons (and this list would exclude high elevation or highly prominent lame peaks such as Kaibab Plateau HP). Your post may prompt me to try this for AZ.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by Teresa Gergen » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:34 pm

Different geographic areas of the US have used different minimum prominences to create their lists over time. Colorado has a long history of favoring 300 ft. Some of the eastern US uses 200 ft. I believe 400 or 500 ft is traditional in the Pacific NW. In addition, mountaineering clubs have historically defined their own lists, often pre-dating, or ignoring, the establishment of a minimum prominence rule by the local peakbagging community. For example, the Colorado Mountain Club's 14er list has 54 peaks, including two that lack the minimum 300 ft of prominence, and one that does have P300 but is excluded. Like the ADK 46er list, one can consider this version a "club list," and then say that there are 53 ranked (P300) Colorado 14ers.

You should take a look at listsofjohn.com. There are elevation-oriented lists for every US state there, using a standard P300 to define ranked peaks across the country. If you want to choose a different prominence to define your version (or a club version) of a list, you can create a custom list there. Or you can create any list of interest to yourself and put in the "Notes" section why you chose the peaks that you did for your list.

Oregon's highest 100 peaks with P300:
https://listsofjohn.com/highest?n=100&s=OR

The following user would like to thank Teresa Gergen for this post
chugach mtn boy, triyoda

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by ExcitableBoy » Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:09 pm

seano wrote:
ExcitableBoy wrote:The Bulger list was gerrymandered to exclude the most difficult summits in the range.

Which do you have in mind? I've done about half of (some version of) the Bulgers, and it looks like there are 5 with less than 300' prominence: Sahale, Horseshoe, Dark, Rahm, and Little Annapurna. Looking at the peakbagger.com top 200 list, the northern Pickets and Hozomeen are all outside the top 100.



Nooksack Tower and Burgandy Spire, referred to by Fred Beckey as two of the most difficult summits to attain in the Cascades. Nooksack Tower may be a stretch, but if a couple of the other peaks fell off the list it should be there, but Burgundy definitely was gerrymandered off of the Bulger list. My belief is the rules of prominence and distance were implemented in such a way that the most difficult peaks would not appear on the list, such as Burgundy Spire, which at 5.8 is one of the technically most difficult summits to attain in Washington if you look purely at YDS grading. It should be obvious that half the shit I write is intended to piss someone off, so take my opinion on this with a grain of salt.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by seano » Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:28 pm

Thanks. I'm not much of a stickler for prominence, but I'd consider Burgundy Spire's 80 feet a bit lame (yes, it's much bigger on the other side... ;-). There may be plenty of good climbing to be had, but something less than a rope-length high is a pretty short "peak." I didn't realize Nooksack Tower had that much prominence, but as a low-5th-class choss-pile, it sounds right up my alley. I'll put it on the to-do list.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by Jesus Malverde » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:14 am

ExcitableBoy wrote: It should be obvious that half the shit I write is intended to piss someone off.

EB,
We all love you. :)

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by triyoda » Fri Jan 20, 2017 6:47 am

Teresa Gergen wrote:
Oregon's highest 100 peaks with P300:
https://listsofjohn.com/highest?n=100&s=OR


A lot of unamed peaks on this list.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by ExcitableBoy » Fri Jan 20, 2017 2:16 pm

seano wrote:prominence, but as a low-5th-class choss-pile, it sounds right up my alley. I'll put it on the to-do list.


It was on my do-list under I traversed below it on my way to climb the Price Glaicier. It frightens me. Big, dark, hard to get to, high objective hazards, manky rock. All the joys of Cascade's alpinism rolled into one peak.

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Teresa Gergen

 
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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by Teresa Gergen » Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:02 pm

triyoda wrote:
Teresa Gergen wrote:
Oregon's highest 100 peaks with P300:
https://listsofjohn.com/highest?n=100&s=OR


A lot of unamed peaks on this list.


Yes, of course. Prominence has nothing to do with names. Names are a human construct; people will name anything, or not name peaks that aren't easily visible from roads, are "too low" to be noticed, etc. Prominence is based on geography - something natural. Most lists with P300 will have tons of unnamed peaks.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by lcarreau » Sat Jan 21, 2017 12:22 am

Jesus Malverde wrote:
ExcitableBoy wrote: It should be obvious that half the shit I write is intended to piss someone off.

EB,
We all love you. :)


I never get mad, I just get even. -- :wink:
"Turkey Vultures always vomit when they get nervous."

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by triyoda » Sat Jan 21, 2017 1:52 am

Teresa Gergen wrote:Yes, of course. Prominence has nothing to do with names. Names are a human construct; people will name anything, or not name peaks that aren't easily visible from roads, are "too low" to be noticed, etc. Prominence is based on geography - something natural. Most lists with P300 will have tons of unnamed peaks.


CO and CA have no "unamed" peaks in their top 100 ranked list. To me a lot of unamed, but ranked peaks means one of two things, limited climbing heritage (not many people have gone out and tried to climb these peaks) and/or the peaks just aren't very ascetic or good climbs (which would explain the lack of climbing heritage). In any case, it's hard to get real interested in climbing a bunch of unamed peaks in OR as I would have to guess any peak that was really good would have been named already.

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Re: Inconsistency with prominence on peak lists?

by Teresa Gergen » Sat Jan 21, 2017 4:08 am

triyoda wrote:
Teresa Gergen wrote:Yes, of course. Prominence has nothing to do with names. Names are a human construct; people will name anything, or not name peaks that aren't easily visible from roads, are "too low" to be noticed, etc. Prominence is based on geography - something natural. Most lists with P300 will have tons of unnamed peaks.


CO and CA have no "unamed" peaks in their top 100 ranked list. To me a lot of unamed, but ranked peaks means one of two things, limited climbing heritage (not many people have gone out and tried to climb these peaks) and/or the peaks just aren't very ascetic or good climbs (which would explain the lack of climbing heritage). In any case, it's hard to get real interested in climbing a bunch of unamed peaks in OR as I would have to guess any peak that was really good would have been named already.


Only being very familiar with CO, I'd guess it has more to do with elevation. The lower in elevation you go, the fewer named peaks, at least maybe as a percentage of the peaks in that elevation range. CO has some seriously difficult lower unnamed ranked peaks in the western half of the state.

Alternately, peaks with less prominence may be less likely to get named. Only one of the unnamed ranked OR highest 100 peaks has over 1000 ft of prominence.

Two of CO's highest ranked 100 peaks are unnamed, and 5 more have only unofficial names (in quotes here):
https://listsofjohn.com/PeakStats/selec ... n=100&s=CO

CA has even more unnamed ranked and unofficially named ranked peaks in its highest 100:
https://listsofjohn.com/PeakStats/selec ... n=100&s=CA

It could be that some of those unnamed peaks on the OR highest 100 ranked list have unofficial names that the local climbing community knows about. If they appear in print somewhere, John Kirk will add them to listsofjohn.com. People who use LOJ submit information like this to him all the time.

And, what's wrong with being the first person to finish a list instead of just climbing peaks "everyone" climbs, anyway? :D But yes, if you attempt to climb all the peaks on a list defined by elevation, you will get any and all degrees of quality, aesthetics, and difficulty, including a lot of little hills (which can be beautiful, or relaxing after a hard summer of climbing, or surprisingly difficult or remote if you choose to climb them in winter to make them challenging, etc.)

Some of the club lists in the west appear to be an attempt to create "quality" lists, or lists of "classic" peaks. I'm afraid I have no knowledge of club lists in the Pacific NW or in the Eastern US.

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