Viewing: 1-20 of 41

Andinistaloco - Feb 21, 2006 4:43 am - Hasn't voted


If no one's told you yet, you have to take out all the spaces in the html. It sucks and happened to me once as well. At least, that was how it worked on V1. All the spaces in the tables simply transferred to before it. I'm assuming (although I could be wrong) that's what happened here. Cheers.

Bob Bolton

Bob Bolton - Feb 21, 2006 8:12 am - Hasn't voted

Re: spaces

Thanks for your help! It was actually cured by using the No Format button. -Bob


Andinistaloco - Feb 22, 2006 2:39 am - Hasn't voted

Re: spaces

Cool... glad it's fixed. Gotta love V2 - in V1 you would've had to manually remove them!


desainme - Feb 21, 2006 5:34 am - Voted 10/10


Highlight your table of prominent mtns and then press the NO FORMAT button above your writing

Bob Bolton

Bob Bolton - Feb 21, 2006 8:11 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Yup

Thanks - that did the trick! -Bob

Buz Groshong

Buz Groshong - Feb 21, 2006 4:38 pm - Hasn't voted

Bad definition

Posting this sort of list is great and lists of this sort are information. Unfortunately, this one can be said to be based on a bad definition of terms. The site that you link to for a definition states in part "Prominence is a term that represents the elevation of a summit relative to the surrounding terrain. It is defined as the elevation of a summit relative to the highest point to which one must descend before reascending to a higher summit." The first sentence says "relative to surrounding terrain," but the second sentence (which declares itself to be the definition) refers to a point where one can reascend to a higher summit, which may or may not be "surrounding terrain." Take a look at Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, the two highest peaks in Colorado, for instance. Their so-called prominence for Mt. Massive is measured from the low point between it and Mt. Elbert, which certainly could be said to be within the surrounding terrain, although it is not truly representative of the surrounding terrain. For Mt. Elbert, the same reference point is not used even though both have essentially the same surrounding terrain. For Mt. Elbert the the reference point is somewhere out in the great basin, between it and Mt. Whitney, hardly "surrounding terrain." The other problem, to me is that these two mountains that are very close to each other are measured by very different standards. I can only conclude that this so-called "prominence" is totally bogus!


nartreb - Feb 21, 2006 6:19 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Bad definition

a thorough definition of prominence

Don't take "surrounding terrain" to imply fixed proximity, or any kind of averaging. As you pointed out, that phrase is not part of the definition, just an attempt to describe what prominence is useful for.
In calculating prominence, you first need to find the "critical col" from which to measure. For mountains that are the largest in their local area, finding the critical col is not easy.

Recall that prominence is the vertical height of the peak above the lowest point to which you *must* descend before reaching a higher peak. The prominence of Everest is nonsensical by this definition (there is no higher peak), but for purposes of comparison you could decide that you'll measure Everest's prominence as its height above sea level. For K2, the only higher peak is Everest, so you have only one "candidate higher neighbor", but you still need to identify a point "between" K2 and everest, such that there is no route from K2 to Everest that passes only over higher points. K2's prominence is the difference in elevation between K2 and that point.
For Mt Washington, NH (highest point in New England), the critical point is somewhere in New York at the edge of of the Hudson River Watershed, which is the "highest low point" between Mt W and its "nearest" higher peak (one of the Carolina 6000ers). ("Nearest" is not the right word, what I mean is "requiring least descent to reach" - this is not necessarily the higher peak in closest proximity as the crow flies.)
For Mt Mitchell, highpoint of the Appalachians, the critical point will be somewhere at the northern edge of the Great Plains (the higher neighbor will be somewhere in the Rockies).
In contrast, for Mt Monroe, the critical point is the col linking it to Mt Washington, just steps from the summit.

Buz Groshong

Buz Groshong - Feb 21, 2006 8:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Still bogus

The point that I was trying to make, is that the first senetence, which you correctly point out is not part of the definition, is in fact what most people would think of as prominence. Thus, the definition is not in total agreement with common usage, and as I pointed out, in some instances contradicts common usage. So I still find the definition bogus, but won't argue it any further.


RyanS - Feb 23, 2006 7:02 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Bad definition

Yeah, you've selected one of the more 'fluffy' definitions of prominence to make your point. The one I use on my own site is completely unambiguous, and may help you to better understand the concept: "Elevation difference between a peak's summit and the lowest contour that encircles it and no higher summit."

I'm not sure why it's such a huge problem to people that prominence favors Elbert over Massive. No one kicks and screams about Elbert being #1 on Colorado's elevation list, so why is it such a huge deal that it's #1 on Colorado's prominence list? It also happens to be the highest point in the Rockies, hence its large prominence value; give Elbert some credit!

I recently responded to someone who asked, "If elevation is a factor in prominence, then why are prominence lists even worthwhile?" As Bob correctly pointed out, prominence has *long* been a factor in elevation lists. There's a circular relationship between these two mountain statistics, and there's nothing wrong with that. I agree with Bob -- I enjoy seeing the greater variety in distribution of peaks depending on the prominence threshold you choose, and I think that's its greatest virtue.

No type of list is perfect; they all have their faults. They're imperfect ways to try to catalogue mountains, and they all seem to include peaks that we won't necessarily enjoy. Using Colorado as a continuing example, the elevation list ranks a peak like Mount Bross very highly, even though it's a far inferior peak to just about every 13er. The county highpoints list includes places like the intersection of SH-128 & Indiana Street in the plains of Broomfield County, or a small pile of boulders on the flanks of Pikes Peak. The prominence list buries Mount Sopris at #181, a few places behind the unremarkable UN 10,614, which is just 6 miles away from Sopris. The Spire Measure list, which favors steep peaks, thinks that this unranked random ridgepoint is more worthy than the steep and rugged 14er, Little Bear Peak!

My point is, the more lists the better. They'll expose you to more peaks than you might have been exposed to otherwise.

Bob Bolton

Bob Bolton - Feb 22, 2006 2:49 am - Hasn't voted

Not bogus!


You say that the great basin is not surrounding terrain to Mt. Elbert. I beg to differ, as the entire western hemisphere could be considered surrounding terrain to any point in the hemisphere. The term "surrounding terrain" was not defined, therefore one cannot claim that it is or is not something specific. Also, one can't say that a description based on an undefined term renders as "bogus" the definition of a precisely defined entity in which the undefined term is not even used. And it really doesn't matter what "most people would think". Topographic prominence has a very precise definition, and that's what matters IMO.

Having said that, however, I admit that prominence has problems. The relationship between Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive is a perfect example of one of the problems. However, this is an extreme case, so we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Prominence does allow us to measure mountains on a much more level playing field than pure elevation allows. Difficulty arises because a range highpoint, such as Elbert, gets the lion's share of the prominence.

Prominence is probably most interesting to those who want to go to the highest summit in a specific region, but have limited time. Assume that such a person were given the option to climb one peak in Colorado, for example. S/he, being interested in the highest point, would probably pick Elbert over Massive or Harvard or La Plata or Blanca. It is this sort of thinking that has spawned such pursuits as state and county highpointing. Prominence baggers tend to be motivated by the same sort of thinking. The first peak I think of in the Cascades is Rainier. The first peak I think of in the Sierras is Whitney. Those are the two most topographically prominent peaks in the 48 states, as well as being their respective range highpoints.

Some of the strengths of prominence are that it is completely objective, it has a precise definition, and it can be determined to quite good accuracy with computer software. This makes it possible to create prominence-based lists, where prior to the availability of the software that task was MUCH more difficult, and sometimes approached impossibility.

Those who prefer strictly elevation-based climbing lists would probably never climb outside of Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming, as far as 48-state peakbagging is concerned. Those are the only lower-48 states which have peaks higher than 13,000 feet, with the exception of Rainier of course (if I haven't forgotten any). With something over 600 peaks surpassing 13,000 feet, most of us would never complete the list. By contrast, high prominence peaks exist in much more varied places. For example, the list of the 57 lower-48 Ultra-prominences is made up of the following distribution. Washington 7 (was 8), Oregon 4, California 9, Nevada 8, Idaho 3, Montana 4, Utah 8, Wyoming 3, Colorado 3, Arizona 5, New Mexico 1, New Hampshire 1, North Carolina 1.

I for one find it far more interesting to visit high-prominence peaks even though their elevations may be lower, as compared to higher-elevation summits with only 300+ feet of prominence, such as the 600+ 13ers in Colorado.

Don't forget that all elevation-based lists use prominence, with exceptions in some cases. For example, the Colorado 14ers are by and large limited to a minimum of 300 feet of prominence. If the minimal prominence were 200 feet, there would be a larger number of 14ers, and if it were 400 feet, there would be fewer 14ers. 300 feet works pretty well in Colorado. In Washington the minimum prominence to be included in the 100 highest list is 400 feet. This eliminates the sub-summits on the volcanoes, and works rather well for the remainder of the state. I only point this out because prominence has been in existence for years, and has served us well even though we didn't know the prominence of most peaks. Now we have the ability to compute the prominence of all mountains, so we can create lists with thresholds different from 300 or 400 feet. The 5000-foot threshold has been labeled Ultra-prominence. All 2000-foot prominence peaks in the 48 states are now known, and they make very interesting lists for peakbaggers. Folks are currently working on 1000-foot prominence lists for some states.

For additional information regarding prominence, here's a page I've found to be interesting and useful.



Dean - Feb 22, 2006 5:09 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Not bogus!

Excellent response and explanation Bob. I am one who took awhile to understand the concept of prominence and how it related to a peak but once I comprehended the concept, I fell in love with it.
Lists are what help to keep me motivated and in shape and fit in nicely with my desire to be in the mountains. Kudos to you for putting up this exceptional list.


SawtoothSean - Feb 23, 2006 8:09 am - Voted 10/10


Hi- I like this list and the concept in general, but I'm uncertain about the importance of it's application. What about the steepness of angle upon which the prominence of the peak is measured from it's saddle. Wouldn't steepness be the biggest factor in micro-prominence?

So prominence is used to just declare which peaks stick out the most in respect to the surrounding terrain? So the peaks that have other tall peaks around them are hurt in this rating (Grand Teton), whereas the "loners" like many of the Cascade volcanoes rank higher. Is this used just to determine the "looks" of a mountain?

"Prominence" has little to do with how difficult a peak is, given the other factors like skill level, surface (glacier vs. rock), method (trail vs. bushwhack) and so on.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but why should I be more interested from a prominence persepctive, in climbing Mt. Baker rather than the Grand Teton? I also see Diamond Peak (#44) Idaho is on the list, yet something like Baron Spire isn't there. From a micro-prominence / angle perspective, Baron Spire goes straight up for thousands of feet from it's immediate terrain DIRECTLY underneath it. Diamond rolls it's way up from the nearby valleys.

I'm not trying to be difficult or critical, I just want to have a better understanding of this concept, but more importantly (as a mountaineer I need to do)how to apply it. I guess, like any list or goal, this is something to work toward at a very minimum.




brendon - Feb 23, 2006 9:32 am - Voted 9/10

Re: Medium

In the application of prominence, as far as the word "prominent" goes, those who developed the concept attached the word to it. Most people would use the word in a way like, "Mount McCaleb is prominent from Mackay." But, for this concept, prominence means something else.

I'm uncertain about the importance of it's application...
It's just another objective measure of topography. Instead of a list of elevation thresholds, like CO 14ers or ID 11ers, it gives a list of mountains that are "prominent" in elevation either locally or regionally. If you notice, the highest prominence measures are for regional highpoints (Whitney, Elbert) or high volcanoes with low bases. After that the list leads to smaller regional highpoints and range highpoints.

Go to the Idaho page and you will find that the list is rounded off by subrange and divide highpoints.

For example, in the Lost River Range the most prominent peak is Borah (regional and range HP), followed by 11,081 (divide HP), Dickey (subrange), King Mtn (divide HP), Doublespring (11,611, divide HP), and Jumpoff Peak (subrange, divide HP). Yes, there are lots of other peaks in the range that are awesome and not on the list. That's not the point. This list gives a "whirlwind tour" itinerary of the area.

Just another list. Prominence, however, gives a more varied list of places to explore.

Bob Bolton

Bob Bolton - Feb 23, 2006 3:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Medium

Hi Sean,

When I first got involved with Prominence back in 2000, I had the same kinds of thoughts, and still do actually. It boils down to going to the highest place in a range or region. I've found that even when working on 2000-foot prominence lists in the various states that I enjoy those because of the view usually being the best for that area.

Prominence has less chance of appealing to wall and route-oriented climbers. I've never had a desire to climb Rainier or Hood by 16 different routes. I want to go somewhere else, and my second motto is "Life is too short for repeats". I am also motivated by lists, which isn't for everybody either. For me, the more lists the better, and these prominence lists are very interesting to me.

Having said that, however, when I got involved with prominence I was more interested in steepness and local relief, so proposed to the math wizards involved with prominence that we devise a mountain measure which factored together local relief and the steepness of that relief. What came out of that discussion was something called "Spire Measure". I think you'll find that Spire Measure addresses your thoughts rather well - check it out. The one thing I don't like about what they did was to complicate it with something called Reduced Spire Measure, which exists only to make it possible to generate spire measure based climbing lists with the computer. I don't care about climbing lists, I simply want to measure the mountains against one another.

No mountain measure will suggest which peaks everyone "must" climb. Pick the lists you like and go for it. Or, don't do lists at all and simply climb what appeals to you. I like lists, but it's not for everyone. It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round!



SawtoothSean - Feb 23, 2006 6:18 pm - Voted 10/10

Spire Measurement

Bob- thanks for your reply. Yes!- I was very intrigued by "Spire Measurement" as it considers steepness in its calculation based on the local terrain. I agree, that the Reduced Spire Measurement, dilutes the equation by subtracting from the calculation based on nearby high peaks. After all, some of the most impressive spires from a climbing point of view are nestled amongst other spires. Unfortunately, the lists on the site were all RSM, with only CO having a pure SM. I'd love to see a pure SM for the lower 48 or the west. Whether the spire was omnidirectional was the other factor worthy of discussion also. (El Cap was a good example).

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and good luck with the Ultra-Prominence list, as it seems like a great climbing goal!


SawtoothSean - Feb 23, 2006 6:37 pm - Voted 10/10


Another interesting concept is the summation of the "Spire Measurement" by range, determining "Ruggedness". As suspected, CO and the Sierras have a lower rating than say the North Cascades. It would be interesting to see the calculation for the Tetons and Idahos's Lost River Range and Sawtooths.


RyanS - Feb 23, 2006 7:22 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Medium

This probably won't please you, but Baron only seems to have 411' of clean prominence, due to its 8800' saddle south of the peak that connects it to Warbonnet. Too bad there's not a spire measure list for Idaho online. I'm sure it would fare better on that list.

Don't you think you stretched things a bit when you said 'thousands of feet from its immediate terrain'? Judging from your page, it's an impressive and beautiful peak, to be sure, and it sounds like a difficult climb. But it's little more than 2000' to that lower Baron Creek valley, only barely satisfying your choice of words.

I think Bob responded to your general questions well. Many peaks that are prominent aren't going to be exciting to climb (though many are). All of them, however, do provide you with excellent views... unless the summit is tree-covered :)


SawtoothSean - Feb 23, 2006 8:39 pm - Voted 10/10

Baron: 2500+ feet

Baron is definitely hurt by nearby Warbonnet and the other spires, in terms of prominence. Not sure how "clean prominence" is defined- what angle? Is it vertical rock that would typically require hands? By the same token, I wasn't clear on my original statement of "immediate terrain". In .75 aerial miles Baron rises 2505 feet from the Baron Creek Valley (9149 ft from 6832 ft). From a rock climbing point of view, perhaps the best way to measure this is: the largest expanse of vertical rock, by which 411' feet might be the case (Elephant's Perch looks to have 1000+') However, the 18 pitch route on Baron's north ridge goes up 1800 vertical feet from start to end, but is broken up by a few ledges. From a "look up at it, from the closest and lowest valley" persepctive, it would be the 2505 feet.

By the limitations of the "omnidirection requirements" of the definition, Baron is perhaps hurt also, like many other spires and buttresses.
This topic is fascinating, and somewhat subjective by all the definitions and premises ("immediate terrain", "clean prominence", "vertical terrain" etc.)


RyanS - Feb 23, 2006 11:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Baron: 2500+ feet

Gotcha, I see what you were getting at.

Regarding clean prominence...

There are three ways to execute a prominence calculation based on the elevation you use for the key saddle (this is irrelevant if there's a surveyed saddle elevation provided on the map). I'll continue to use Baron's saddle, which lies somewhere between 8760' and 8800', as the example.

(1) Optimistic prominence - Means that you take the lowest possible value for the saddle, in Baron's case 8760'. This method is rarely used (if ever) and poorly regarded because it inevitably overshoots the peak's true prominence value.

(2) Interpolated prominence - This method endeavors to estimate a saddle's elevation by using a saddle value halfway between the two key lines of contour. It is dependent on the topo's contour interval. This is the preferred method in Colorado, but it's also not as highly regarded amongst the hardcore prominence theorists because, while there are times where this would be the more accurate estimate, it *can* overshoot the peak's prominence value. In Baron's case, you'd interpolate the saddle to be 8780'.

(3) Clean prominence - Also known as pessimistic prominence, it's the standard for the Ultras list and most lists throughout the world. It uses the value of the higher of the two key lines of contour as the saddle elevation (the 8800' line, in Baron's case). It has the negative consequence of always underestimating a peak's prominence, but you also can be sure that you're *never* overestimating it. That is, if you trust that the mapmakers got it right to begin with! :-D


SawtoothSean - Feb 23, 2006 11:28 pm - Voted 10/10


Thanks for the breakdown on the types of prominence. I started reading about Spire Measurement and Ruggedness (as measurements) shortly after Prominence.

Viewing: 1-20 of 41
Return to 'Ultra-prominence Peaks of the 48 States' main page