"Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain... Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall - it's great when you stop."

Chris Darwin

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To be or not to be?

By doing some research for climbs in the Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash, as well as back when I was doing the same for Langtang Himal of Nepal, I tumbled across whole range inconsistency of issues. These make even identifying the peak a tad difficult and therefore complicate finding further information a great deal.

These issues include things like:

  • inconsistent naming of Peaks
  • inconsistent writing form of the same sames
  • inconsistent altitude

Identifying the route has also the very same issues with naming. Also those and sometimes vague details about the route make it difficult to identify the same route. If first ascentionist information is available, it can make this a lot easier. It is not free of pitfalls though, as there appear to have been few ascents reported as new route when the route had actually been climbed before. Listed first ascencionists can also be inconsistent between sources if one source lists a route as climbed without summiting whereas another source considers the first ascent that ends up on a summit as the first ascent. In Peruvian Cordilleras several routes end on a summit ridge without actually summiting.

Jeremy Frimer's excellent guidebook Climbs & treks in the Cordillera Huayhuash.Frimer, JeremyElaho2005The pre-eminent guide to one of the world’s great mountain ranges, detailing the approaches, the treks, the climbs and travel. 09733035570973303557FrimerGuidebooken lists references to sources he considers to be primary. While this approach is very much common place (usually mandatory) in scientific world, I don't remember having seen it used in climbing world too often. Makes perfect sense though.

Sources of information I consider primary within the realm of climbing world (in descending order of importance, IMO):

  • guidebooks
  • Alpine journals (I consider Alpinist and Mountain Info to be somewhere between a journal and a magazine in this respect and Himalayan Index to be journal of sorts)
  • climbing magazines

Some of these are available either completely or at least partially online:

Another point that I have sometimes wondered is that in some areas there are very few repeats and virtually all ascents are called new routes. Sometimes this appears to be caused by practically every variation to an existing route to be considered a new route. And variations on mountain routes are pretty much the norm either intentionally (due to conditions) or unintentionally (getting lost). Obviously there are no stead-fast rules when a route is a route and when it is a variation. This is brought up in an The Changing Nature of Climbing of Alpinist.

Yet another point to consider is what constitutes a mountain. In Europe, most notably in Chamonix area, there are apparently not a bumb small enough not to be a mountain with name and everything. In less explored areas, say Himalayas or Andes, what is considered to be a mountain is usually very different. In those areas I suspect that the whole range of peaks making up the mountains of Chamonix could be just one mountain, with Aguille Verte, Grandes Jorasses etc called Mont Blanc Norte I and II respectively. At the very least, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Courmayer and other satellites would most definitely not to be counted as mountains, some of them probably not even as side summits. Not that there's anything wrong with them being counted as mountains, if they weren't it would certainly make reading guidebook more confusing due the great number of routes on various features on Mont Blanc and its satellites. If going to less explored areas though, it is worth a note that up there something called say North summit may actually be very much independent peak.

Also just because a peak doesn't even have a proper name but is referred to group name and a number (say Caraz II or K7) doesn't mean that it wouldn't be imposing peak on its own right.

Then there are mountains that have highly misleading name. Take Yerypajá Chico as an example (peak sitting on Cordillera Huayhuash main chain between Yerupajá in the south and Jirishanca in the north). The name would suggest a lower side summit to Yerupajá. However, a peak with a primary factor (altitude gain from low point separating it from its nearest higher neighbor) of over 500m is hardly a side summit of anything.

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