There seems to be no end to the new lists coming in to the climbing community from around the world. Well, here’s another one for us all to dislike. Or, you can just shoot the messenger, in this case me.
The concept of county highpointing has been around for decades (as in more than two). Obviously, the idea is to stand on the highest point within each county. Most of the time the county highpoint is a distinct top. But sometimes the highest point resides on the county border. The highpoint might even stretch a short distance along the county line. County highpointing is a noble pursuit. It allows for a great many such points to conquer (more than the simple 50 highpoints of each state).
With the rise in popularity of prominence as a means to measure the stature of a mountain, it was no stretch that a list for the most prominent peak in each county got created. County prominencing, if you will, as a pursuit unto itself, has been around for about a decade, possibly even less.
But height and prominence are vertically oriented measures. They take no account of horizontal spatiality. Two very high prominence peaks can theoretically be right next to each other, separated by a very deep notch on the same divide or by a canyon. Or they could be very far apart. It doesn’t matter. Their prominences still are what they are.
Is there a measure for horizontal spatiality? There is. And it goes by the name of isolation. In brief, a peak’s isolation is defined as its separation (horizontal separation) to higher ground, or to a higher summit. A peak with high isolation need not have high prominence. It could be a blip of a bump on an otherwise planar expanse, like an island in the middle of the ocean.
Isolation lists have been previously created. There are worldwide
, country-wide, and statewide
isolation lists. All one needs to do is define the borders inside which such a list could be created, and wham-mo, another list!
In this case (this page), the borders are the county lines themselves. So, like county highpoints (CoHPs) and county greatest prominence points (GPPs), this page presents the county greatest isolation points (GIPs) for the 39 Washington Counties. This is the first list of its kind. It may catch on (for other states). Or it may not.
There are two ways to define a peak’s isolation. One is to calculate the peak’s isolation away from the next-higher peak (the nearest higher neighbor, NHN) where that neighbor possesses a threshold prominence (perhaps 300P or 400P). The distance is peak-to-peak, in this case, and this means for the candidate peak, there is no higher threshold summit within that circle whose radius is defined by that distance to the NHN.
The NHN method is valid, but its flaw is that it brings into play prominence because a prominence threshold needs to be set for the NHN. In this regard, it is not a true measure of a peak’s isolation. There might well be higher ground with no clearly defined summit, especially one with a threshold prominence, very close by, such as a long gentle ridge rising away from the candidate peak.
A better concept for determining isolation is to calculate a peak’s distance to the nearest higher ground, NHG. This method does not make use of prominence at all. Generally, with this method, the NHG point is on a slope of a summit that is higher than the candidate peak. That higher summit could be the NHN summit, but it need not be. The NHN summit could be in the completely opposite direction.
When poring over maps for NHG points for a candidate peak, one must decide when an NHG point should be included. My method was to employ a clean isolation
whereby the NHG point had to be definitely higher than the candidate peak. For example, if a candidate peak is 3009 ft, the NHG point would have to be a point with spot mark or benchmark elevation of 3010 and, failing that, would have to be a closed contour at the next higher contour interval (perhaps 3020 feet or perhaps 3040 ft). This way I could be sure to have taken a higher point in the distance, disregarding, of course, the inherent inaccuracy in the maps themselves.
The complication is that a clean isolation calculation does not answer the whole question regarding which is the most isolated point in a county. What if, in the example above, there is a 3000-3019 contour very much nearer to the 3009 point? It is possible there is higher ground within that contour (there could be a 3014-ft point in it). With this in mind, it seemed necessary to determine the minimum higher ground, mHG, for a candidate peak. If the mHG point should be less distant than the NHG point, or even mHG point, of the runner-up candidate peak, then it is possible the runner-up peak is more isolated. Most of the time, but not all of the time, the mHG is very close, and in the same general direction (bearing) as the NHG.
A Note About the Name
The official name for these summits are County Greatest Isolation Points (GIPs). But they also go by their unofficial humorous name, GIMPs (Greatest Isolation Mountain Points) and people who specifically climb them for their isolation stature are called Gimpers. The unofficial name of CHIMPs, County Highest Isolation Mountain Points, has also been toyed and joked with.
A Note About the Feeling
When one is standing on a high isolation point, there is usually* obvious awareness that one is standing on the highest point for a long away around. The ground falls away from you in every direction. As you stand there, you will be able to look in every direction, 360 degrees, for at least as far as the NHG (or mHG distance) distance. A circle with that radius all around you contains all of that ground that falls away from you. It’s like that The Who song, “I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles. Oh yeah.”
There is a strong bond between prominence and isolation. A peak with high prominence is generally, but not always, also one with high isolation. But whereas quite often a peak’s prominence has to be felt indirectly because one often cannot see the Key Saddle from which the prominence value is measured, a peak’s isolation can always* be felt directly in the horizontal plane.
In this regard, having done both county greatest prominence points and county greatest isolation points, I can aver that the latter is much more palpable when you are there.
As an aside, I’ll pose the following philosophical point: which type of summit would generally have better views: a high prominence summit or a high isolation summit, all else being equal?
* if it’s a whiteout at the summit or the summit is in thick woods, you might not get the sensation.
The Relationship to Quad Highpoints (QHPs)
It may come as a surprise that for every county but one the county GIP also is the highpoint of the quad in which it resides.
The maximum length of a straight line contained wholly within a quad is 8.485 miles from one quad corner to the opposite corner. If the isolation point has an NHG distance greater than this value, then it by default is also the QHP. For cases where the isolation point has an NHG of less than this corner-to-corner value, then one must only determine its Cartesian
position within the quad and measure the longest line from that point to the quad boundary. If the point’s isolation is greater than this value it is also the QHP.
Since all counties are much greater in size than a single quad, it is likely the GIP will also be a QHP.
But what happens if most of a county is a continual uplift from one side to the other? In cases like this, there may always be higher ground progressively nearby until one reaches the county line on the high side of the county and then on the other side of the border in the adjacent county there is yet further higher ground. For such a county, the eventual point determined to be the GIP will likely not have much isolation. Or it is at least more likely than that of other counties.
Such a county is Asotin County. This county more or less is a progressive uplift to an escarpment whereupon the terrain “plunges” southward to the state line. There is no significantly isolated point in the county. The county GIP has less than four miles of NHG isolation. And since 4 < 8.485, the GIP is not automatically a QHP. The GIP is Rim Benchmark with 3.95 miles of isolation (or maybe it isn’t; see the notes below). The runner-up GIP, Puffer Butte at 3.77 miles, is also not a QHP.
Though in hindsight using the list of QHPs for the state might have been a convenient way to expediently research the GIPs of each county, this is not the way I did my research. I figured out each county by manual map reading in conjunction with using John Kirk’s Lists of John NHN-sorted data for each county. This manual method could be time consuming for some of the flatter counties (such as Adams County).
It was only after the fact that I compared my results to Martin Shetter’s Washington QHP List
and found all but one of my county GIPs were also QHPs. Note that there are discrepancies (wrong results) on Martin’s list that he hasn’t fully corrected.
One has to wonder if a 38 out of 39 result is enough to use the QHP starting point next time, like if I do another state (not likely). One has to wonder if employing that method will unintentionally cause misses in certain counties. One has to wonder if you’ve been following me through this section, or, hell, this whole dang page.
But enough of this QHP business! Who’s into this GIP business?
So who are the known isolationists out there (at least in Washington)? Bob Bolton, Martin Shetter, Craig Willis, myself; while on the periphery are Eric Noel and John Roper.
The Complete Isolationists
For the Washington County GIPs, there have been two GIMPy finishers thus far:
Paul Klenke completed the state on Clark County’s GIP (Pt. 450+) on June 4, 2011
Greg Schmidt completed the state on Kitsap County's GIP (Gold Mountain) on August 21, 2012. Incidentally, Greg also finished the state's County GPP and County HP lists at the same time on Gold Mountain.
Martin Shetter is probably closest to finishing next. He probably only has a four or five counties left.
Setting up the List
The Washington County GIP list is provided below. The NHG and mHG for each summit candidate is provided, in addition to the elevation range of summit candidates whose highest point is merely a closed contour of undefined exact height within it (i.e., no spot mark or benchmark elevation). Also provided is the bearing to the NHG and mHG.
The NHG and mHG maplinks contain two balloons, one for the candidate GIP (balloon A) and one for the NHG point or mHG point (balloon B). You will probably need to zoom out to see both balloons. The links are centered on balloon B.
Parenthetical prominence values designate the prominence that candidate point would have if
it were the most isolated point, i.e., higher in elevation than the other candidate points for that county.
For Clark County, the runner-up GIP Pt. 350+ has been left in for personal reasons.
There are special conditions that arise for peaks on the list. These conditions are provided in the notes following the table.
The ListWashington County Greatest Isolation Points, GIPs
1 - Four 3920+ contours to west have less isolation than Puffer Butte (3.77 miles). If any of these are higher than Rim BM, then Puffer is Asotin GIP
2 - Pt. 566m is 1.17 miles to the west; if Pt. 560+m is actually higher than Pt. 566m, then Pt. 560+m is Adams GIP unless mHG (6.27 miles away) is determining factor
3 - more isolation than Pt. 1887 if actually higher than Pt. 1887; saddle between Pt. 1880+ and Pt. 1887 is 1720 clean
4 - Note that NHN is likely Pk 2200+ in Oregon at 28.11 miles away; NHG is in opposite direciton on SE Ridge of Rattlesnake Mountain
5 - Two 450+ points; northern point has 6.74 miles of isolation to same point on Tukes Mountain
6a - Oregon Butte isolation value assumes it is higher than Diamond Peak; if Oregon Butte lower than Diamond Peak, Oregon Butte isolation is 6.71 miles (NHG = Diamond Peak)
6b - If Oregon Butte lower than Diamond Peak, Table Rock is Columbia GIP
7a - Douglas GIP only if higher than both 2630+ points and McDonald BM
7b - If Pt. 2630+ West higher than Pilot Rock (2637), Pt. 2630+ East, McDonald BM (2635), AND higher than Three Springs BM (2642), then 2630+ West is Douglas GIP
7c - If Pt. 2630+ East higher than Pilot Rock (2637), Pt. 2630+ West, McDonald BM (2635), AND higher than Three Springs BM (2642), then 2630+ East is Douglas GIP
7d - If McDonald BM (2635) higher than Pilot Rock (2637), Pt. 2630+ East and West, AND higher than Three Springs BM (2642), then McDonald BM is Douglas GIP
8 - Note: Washtucna BM (498m) really ought to be visited as potential Franklin Cohp, which is 500+m several miles away
9a - Assumes NW summit (6360+) higher than SE summit (6379) AND lower than Oregon Butte; if higher than Oregon Butte, then Diamond NW isolation is 50.25 miles
9b - Per 9a, if SE summit higher than NW summit AND higher than Oregon Butte, SE summit has 49.21 miles of isolation
10 - Two 960+ points; SE point is 0.004 miles closer to NHG; NW point looks to have been obliterated by a quarry. In the field observation irrefutably shows the SE point is highest (now).
11 - Summit coordinates are at point of highest elevation LiDAR data
12a - NHG is summit of Eightmile Mountain (7996); if Daniel actually higher than Eightmile, then NHG is 13.83 miles on West Ridge of Mt. Stuart
12b - Mt. Daniel is on the county line. If Daniel's highest point is actually just inside Kittitas County, then King GIP is Mt. Fernow (Skykomish) at 7.18 miles isolation. Note: the legal document defining the county line says the line follows the divide so by default Daniel’s highest point is right on the line and is therefore in both counties simultaneously
13a - Mission Peak is on the county line. If Mission's highest point is actually just inside Chelan County, then Mt. Daniel (13.32 miles isolation) is Kittitas GIP. Note: the legal document defining the county line says the line follows the divide so by default Mission’s highest point is right on the line and is therefore in both counties simultaneously.
13b - If neither Mission Peak's highest point nor Mt. Daniel's highest point are in Kittitas County (Mt. Daniel is also on the county line), then Manastash Ridge is Kittitas GIP
14 - Summit elevation taken as estimated height at the rock pinnacle
15 - Two minor 620+ points are on the adjacent Mason Lake Quad
16 - NHG is near the summit of Mt. Whitney, CA
17 - mHG at Finney Peak (5083)
18 - Elevation on map used (8333), not elevations listed elsewhere (8365)
19 - NHG is in Idaho
20a - Assumes Larch is higher than Capitol Peak
20b - If Capitol higher than Larch, then Capitol is Thurston GIP
21 - NHG is in Oregon; exact location of NHG changes depending on where highpoint of Pk 1500+ is placed in contour
22 - Pleasant BM (1123) is next door to Pt. 1120+; the higher of the two is Walla Walla GIP