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Thread: Some random thoughts about mountain elevation

  1. #1
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    Default Some random thoughts about mountain elevation

    As I stared at the web cams this morning, a question that's always plagued me came up again (sorry for my ramblings...)

    What constitutes a peak?
    Besides the absolute highest point on a mountain, what makes a summit or peak? In mountain ridge profiles you'll see multiple peaks, but obviously there's only 1 "highest elevation" peak on the ridge. For the lower peaks, what constitutes it as a new mountain peak, versus just the rocky up & down elevation on the way to the maximum summit?

    Wikipedia to the rescue?
    I first searched on summit & peak, which as I thought are synonymous.

    As I then dug deeper I stumbled onto Topographic Prominence. From what I can understand of it, the lowest encircling topographic line (saddle point) that dictates the lowpoint before the next gain in elevation, so the distance from one peak to the next (d) needs to be greater than the distance from the lowpoint to the peak. I may be totally wrong here, but that was my understanding. With this idea a lower "bump" below a summit is not always the next mountain peak.

    MWO forum readers please set me straight
    So is my understanding and logic correct on this? Saddle Point (sp) to the peak (p) equals elevation gain (g) or

    G1 = P1 - SP [first peak]
    G2 = P2 - SP [second peak]
    D = distance from G1 to G2

    So then the distance to the next peak needs to be greater than g?

    If D > G1 then G2 = peak?

    Kirk

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    I always thought the general rule was 200 feet of prominence in the United States, but Dawson's 14'er book says 300 feet. That book is a bit of a bible, especially if you live in Colorado.

    The 200-300 foot rule always had me confused because Denali has both a north and south peak, with well over 1,000 feet of prominence between the peaks. Yet, they aren't the two tallest mountains in North America. In fact, the north (lower summit) peak is almost never listed as a separate mountain. That article you linked cleared that up indicating that major peaks need at least 2,000 feet of prominence.
    Bill
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    Quote Originally Posted by spyboy
    As I stared at the web cams this morning, a question that's always plagued me came up again (sorry for my ramblings...)

    What constitutes a peak?
    Besides the absolute highest point on a mountain, what makes a summit or peak? In mountain ridge profiles you'll see multiple peaks, but obviously there's only 1 "highest elevation" peak on the ridge. For the lower peaks, what constitutes it as a new mountain peak, versus just the rocky up & down elevation on the way to the maximum summit?

    Wikipedia to the rescue?
    I first searched on summit & peak, which as I thought are synonymous.

    As I then dug deeper I stumbled onto Topographic Prominence. From what I can understand of it, the lowest encircling topographic line (saddle point) that dictates the lowpoint before the next gain in elevation, so the distance from one peak to the next (d) needs to be greater than the distance from the lowpoint to the peak. I may be totally wrong here, but that was my understanding. With this idea a lower "bump" below a summit is not always the next mountain peak.

    MWO forum readers please set me straight
    So is my understanding and logic correct on this? Saddle Point (sp) to the peak (p) equals elevation gain (g) or

    G1 = P1 - SP [first peak]
    G2 = P2 - SP [second peak]
    D = distance from G1 to G2

    So then the distance to the next peak needs to be greater than g?

    If D > G1 then G2 = peak?

    Kirk
    I have often thought about this myself wondering what makes one high point on a ridge a separate mountain and another not. I don't remember learning about this in Geography either. Thanks Kirk and Wikipedia for clearing this up!
    Steve
    Is there really any BAD weather???

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    I am not sure it is cleared up. If there are 2 "peaks" a mile apart with a saddle 2,000 feet below - they are both peaks. But, if the 2 "peaks" are 1,900 feet apart with the same elevation gain/drop to the saddle, they are not peaks?

    Does not seem to fit.
    Brad (a 6288 club member)
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    Quote Originally Posted by spyboy
    MWO forum readers please set me straight
    So is my understanding and logic correct on this? Saddle Point (sp) to the peak (p) equals elevation gain (g) or

    G1 = P1 - SP [first peak]
    G2 = P2 - SP [second peak]
    D = distance from G1 to G2

    So then the distance to the next peak needs to be greater than g?

    If D > G1 then G2 = peak?

    Kirk
    And what is D above? Is it the distance between peak 1 and peak 2? "Distance from G1 to G2" does not have meaning since the gain is not a point to measure from.
    Brad (a 6288 club member)
    http://bradstreet.zenfolio.com Personal Photo sales site
    http://public.fotki.com/bradbradstreet Personal photo web site
    http://public.fotki.com/MWO/saved/2012/ MWO image & video archive site 2006-2012

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    Default Synopsis

    There are two measures of a high point's significance: elevation and prominence. Elevation is the height above sea level. Prominence is the height above the lowest point along a ridge that is shared with a higher summit. If there is no higher summit, the prominence is equal to the elevation.

    Elevation and prominence are two absolute measures of "how high is that thing?", but Kirk's question was to distinguish between Mountains and mere bumps. Like Bill said, 300 feet of prominence is used with Colorado's 14ers whereas the 4,000 footer club uses 200 feet. The designation "major summit" is a subjective assessment of the peak's elevation and prominence. Denali's North peak is not major, but it has more prominence than most New England towns have elevation. It's like the shortest guy on the basketball team.

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    Default ADK's

    The Adirondack Mountain Club also uses 300' between "peaks". They are the one's who started this 4000 Footer List stuff. This only applies to the list, though. On the New Hampshire 4000 Footer List, one must descend 200' then ascend at least that for it to count as a 4000' Footer. Therefore a named summit such as Mount Clay doesn't count as a 4000' Footer despite being 5533'. It does not meet the 200' col rule from Mount Jefferson. It is however a named summit which has to do with the prominence rules.

    KDT

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    If two high points were 100 miles apart and there was less than 200 feet of prominence they wouldn't be considered two peaks by many definitions.

    Does anybody have more back story on Denali's North and South Peak?

    Mike....is that like being the shortest guy on the basketball team or the tallest midget?
    Bill
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    Mt Wash=tallest midget

    Denali North=shortest guy on the 80s Celtics


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill O
    Mike....is that like being the shortest guy on the basketball team or the tallest midget?

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    Quote Originally Posted by KD Talbot
    Therefore a named summit such as Mount Clay doesn't count as a 4000' Footer despite being 5533'. It does not meet the 200' col rule from Mount Jefferson. It is however a named summit which has to do with the prominence rules.

    KDT
    It is, however, on some other lists, including the YALP (YMCA Alpine) and TrailWrights 72, and my favorite list of all: "Tim's DANG that was a fine view".

    Tim

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