"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Challenge Challenge

If you want to be known for doing something, you either have to be the first, the first to do it well or the best ever. In running, it quickly becomes silly; there are records now for the fastest marathon run in a superhero costume or while carrying a tray with drinks (but not both of those at the same time, yet, Mr. Batman Busboy). The number of people wanting to run a marathon in every state is about the same as the number who run any given marathon. Once some guy runs a "fastest known time" on a trail, there's soon a FKT by a woman, then by a man over 50 years old, etc. until the FKT by a left-handed violinist.

Finding a fitting challenge is a challenge in itself.

I was thinking about climbing all the 2000 foot peaks in Minnesota. I'm not the first to think about it, as it happens. There's some interesting problems to sort out before doing it and no one's figured out what the ground rules should be, so no one's given it a shot.

Here's some of the odd problems:

The town of Isabella in Lake County is at an elevation of 1944, so every little bump near there is over 2000 feet, thus one needs a "minimum climb" rule. The common rule is that one needs a climb of 300 feet. That makes Peabody Hill  at 2019 feet the only peak to climb, even though Stony Tower Hill, at 2080 feet, is the county high point. That doesn't sound right. If you find on a USGS topo map that the climb is only 290 feet, do you have to do it because you can't be sure of the map accuracy, and if so, what about 280 feet or 270 and so on?

Some of the peaks are shaped like molars or tables. The "molar" hills have several points that could each be the high point - it would take a survey crew to decide - so does one have to climb each of them to be sure, or just give it a best guess? The "tables" have large areas one would have to tramp over to be certain one hit the true high point (which probably is covered by a tree anyway) - how much effort is good enough?

As far as I can tell, there are 22 possible peaks:

Eagle Mountain, 2301 feet
"Peak 2266"
"Peak 2007" - possibly a shoulder of 2266
"Misquah Hills true high point" 2260
"Misquah hills official high point" 2246
Gaskin Peak 2245 - somewhere near the two above, if not identical
Lima Mountain 2238
Brule Mountain 2226 (does not meet 300 foot climb rule)
"Peak 2200+"
Pine Mountain 2190
"Peak 2163"
"Peak 2110"
Kelso Mountain 2100
"Peak 2093"
"Peak 2081", plus possibly nearby Peaks 2065, 2046, 2030
Peabody Hill 2019
Moose Mountain 2012 (on Canadian Border; there are many Moose Mountains)
Stony Tower Hill 2080
Height of Land Lookout Tower Hill (Clearwater County) 2006

Some of these have never been climbed, as there's no road or trail for 20 miles! That's a pretty good reason no one's done this challenge. Yet.

Here's a description of an "easy" climb.

Added: this project may need its own page. Peak 2110 is the same as Kelso. The Cloquet Lookout Tower is 2067 feet. The Devilfish Lookout Tower is 2189. Brule Lake Tower is 2120. Gunflint Tower is 2064. Wanless Tower is 2045.

I am now (July 2) up to 70 possible peaks!


mike_hinterberg said...

Great observations and neat list: how did you go about compiling it?

The 300' rule is relative to the closest neighboring peaks, so unless I'm misunderstanding your example near Isabella, the local maxima that don't fit the criteria are really "sub-peaks" along the way to the true high point. This is also why every little bump need not be visited, as the 300' rule general guarantees enough prominence where standing on a lower spot naturally draws the eyes to a nearby higher spot, but if an obnoxious 300' descent is along the way, then there you are! And so it goes.

So either one (or both) of the examples given are sub-peaks toward a higher peak. Therefore, the arbitrariness, in this case, lies in the drawing of county lines!

I would be interested to read about this getting done. Are all of these points publically accessible?

SteveQ said...

Mike, I forgot a climber reads this blog! The list is a compilation of work done by others and currently being checked with USGS online maps (looking for saddles). Surprisingly, all are on public ground, but "accessibility" is relative; some are extremely remote compared to, say, the Colorado 14's!

SteveQ said...

@Mike: plus, 300 feet is a major part of 2000, compared to 14000; perhaps a different standard should apply.

mike_hinterberg said...

Nah, just a casual hack!
Very interesting, yes, 20M approaches (presumably through swamps and bogs in Northern MN) would be quite the challenge. If that's not challenging enough, "in winter" and then "in one calendar winter" are also often tacked on to make a new, made-up challenge.