Frequently Asked Questions and Highpointing Rules

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Frequently Asked Questions

Glossary - Standard Definitions

Glossary - Personal Highpointing Philosophies

Hand Levels (a detailed description is available)

Hand levels at may be found at scientific stores that sell chemicals and rock/mineral collecting supplies and survey equipment. A cheap hand level can cost $20 and most are more than $75. If you get one with magnification nike shox classic and scaling it can cost $200. Some hand levels have no magnificiation and simply have a horizontal line with a level bubble. When magnification is available it may be 2x or 5x.

Hand levels are crucial for multiple area highpoints. One may use them as follows. Take the topo chart and highlight each area by numbering them. Then when in the field under investigation hand level each area and write down notes on your topo such as "1 > 2" which means "area 1 is higher than area 2." If you write down "1 >> 2" then it means that area 1 is much higher than area 2. One often tries to eyeball the highest area and go to it and sight to as many other areas as possible. If any areas are similar in elevation, one should go over to those areas and back sight. One would then write down "2 < 1" which tells you that you went to area 2 and found it to be lower than area 1.

The above procedure may eliminate some areas as being too low and thus save future cohp'ers time and effort. Of course, many multiple areas can't be evaluated because 1) they are too far apart, 2) are cloaked by trees, or 3) are too similar in elevation for hand levels to determine.

Check out an on-line supply store for hand levels.

Highpointing Rules *

* promulgated by Fred Lobdell Release V - Thu Feb 8 16:01:01 MST 2001

1. Pillar claiming

If there is a definite high point, some part of your body should be placed on the highest point.

Cairns: It is considered sufficient to touch the top of the cairn and the highest natural point outside the cairn. Actually, we wouldn't consider it necessary to even touch the top of the cairn, since it's obviously an artificial surface. There's no guarantee the highest point on the cairn is directly over the highest natural point.

2. Access issues - private, military, prisons, atomic tests, etc...

If access is restricted or denied [and you are unable to get to the HP], that's tough: you don't get to claim the high point.

If the (former?) HP is under a house or other structure, the natural surface has almost undoubtedly been excavated for a basement, and thus no longer exists. In these cases, the highest natural area near the structure would be good enough.

3. Summit fences around towers

If the ground inside the fence is about as high as that outside it, then walking around the fence is good enough. If, however, the ground inside the fence is significantly higher than that outside, then you need to figure out a way to get inside, by crawling under, over, or through.

[Caution: a fresh cut in a fence or lock and a pair of bolt cutters in your pack would probably be accepted as adequate circumstantial evidence by most judges and juries. Also: the natural surface inside the fenced area has in many instances been "modified" by earth-moving equipment, and thus does not constitute a natural surface. In these instances, the highest natural surface should be accepted.]

("significantly higher" follow up) - This is rather subjective, but we'd like to stick with "not significantly higher" within the fenced area. That is, it MAY be a few inches higher within the fence . . . or it may not. We would suggest that if you feel it is more than about a foot higher, you should figure some way of getting inside the fence in order to claim the HP. (Use your own judgment in the case of prisons, insane asylums, and military firing ranges.)

We're not talking 1/2 mile fenced in, but not more than 100 to 200 yards at most. These are the small "keep away from the equipment" fences, not the large "this is private property" fences which are covered under "access". You also have to be able to see if it rises significantly inside.

4. Multiple Areas

If it is not known which is the higher, then all should be visited. If, however, you or someone else has done the necessary comparison with hand level, clinometer, survey instruments, or whatever, then it is only necessary to visit the highest area(s). In some cases, we would be willing to accept probabilities. Thus, when there is one large area with a spot elevation only one foot lower than the next higher contour line, and a second, tiny area, we would be willing to accept visiting the first area as being sufficient for claiming the county.

Note: if all areas are close enough and with enough of an unobstructed view for you to be able to determine which is the highest, then you only have to visit the visually highest one. (Usually this is not the case.)

The question is raised whether one needs to visit areas that are definitely lower than other areas if they're listed in the County High Points book.

Absolutely not! If one can determine that one or more areas are definitely not in contention for the CHP, then there is no need to visit them.

With regard to state HPs, if a reliable (?) authority such as the USGS has determined that one of several points is the highest, then we accept this, and there is no need to visit alternate areas. For the state HP, it is necessary to visit only the "official" HP.

If field observations find certain HPs that are lower than the "true" HP, and further if these same HPs are noted in Andy's bible, then it is only necessary to visit the remaining candidates.

5. How close must one get on flat terrain.

One should make a "good-faith effort", to use David Olson's phrase, to get to the "true" HP. When you are in a large, flat area that is inside the highest contour, you should wander around and stand on all the areas that appear to be slightly higher, then invoke the Rule of Schweiker. [Roy Schweiker proposed, several years ago, that if you were inside the highest contour and it was not obvious where the true HP was, that that was good enough to claim the HP.]

Two or three people have recently said something or asked questions that suggested that they thought that simply getting inside the highest contour was good enough to claim the HP. This is absolutely not the case. If you are inside the highest contour, and another area over there looks higher than where you're standing, you need to go over and stand on that area. In the case of large open fields or areas above treeline, this does not pose much of a problem, except for the time and effort necessary to tramp all over the area. But in large flat areas of dense forest or swamp, it may be very difficult to visit all possible HPs.

Thus, I regard some of the southern Florida counties as essentially undoable, as are some on the southeastern coastal plain. These counties have large areas (in some cases, several square miles) of "high point", and without a major effort that might involve days of mucking through swamps, it's not possible to feel reasonably confident of having stood on the highest area. Pasquotank County, NC has several square miles of Great Dismal Swamp at an elevation of 20 feet, with no part of the county reaching 25 feet elevation. The HP may well be some hummock in the swamp, but I'm not going to find out. And I accept the fact that I'll never complete NC. So, in my opinion, simply getting inside the highest contour is, by itself, inadequate to claim the HP.

6. Pre-bagging (before a county/province/etc is created) **

I am opposed, but willing to entertain counter-arguments. My feeling is that we should wait until the political entity is in legal existence before we can do and claim the HP.

Someone suggested that the "pre-bagged" peak should have been, at the time of bagging, the HP of some jurisdiction; since we're county HPers, let's say it should have been the HP of a county. Thus, Bob Walko's ascent of Harquahala Peak, at the time the HP of Yuma County (Arizona), now counts for La Paz County (also Arizona): he doesn't have to go back and re-ascend Harquahala.

Consider it this way: if the northern part of the former Yuma Co. had retained the name Yuma and the southern part had been renamed, no one would think of saying that Bob hadn't ascended the HP of Yuma Co. Which part retained the original name and which part was renamed represents an arbitrary decision on the part of the political authorities.

Which brings us to Broomfield county in Colorado. The HP of the soon-to-be Broomfield County has never been a county HP, just as Broomfield has never been a county. Our feeling is that credit should be given only for those ascents done after the establishment of the county. Of course, if you've ascended this HP previously, you are free to claim the ascent as an ascent, but not as a county HP.


7. HP mined away, or naturally diminished (e.g. Mt St Helens)

The next higher HP becomes the HP, and should be visited even if the prior HP had previously been climbed. However, claims of completing all Washington's county HPs that included Mt St Helens, if completed prior to May 18, 1980, should be honored. (We are willing to bet that most of us would go back and visit the new HP, but we wouldn't require it.)

8. Man made HP - towers - landfills - Indian mounds - etc.

They don't count and as such need not be visited to claim a county highpoint.

9. Drive-over HPs

Your must need step out of the car and onto the HP. Foot-dragging is permitted if you're being shot at. Otherwise, just like baseball's balk rule, you have to make a full stop of at least one second's duration. But seriously, we believe most of us would like to get out of the car, stretch our legs, and have a look around.

10. Machine aids - snow mobile, parachute, helicopter, etc...

There are those who maintain (like Jeff Rand) that any way you get to the top of the mountain, even if dropped off by helicopter, is legitimate.

We are recognizing the achievement of "getting there", not the method or distance/elevation gained (but see "Earlizing" above and the "Helmanizing" collorary thereof).

If this becomes a real problem (highly doubtful) we can re-think this.

12. Climbed the highest summit, not the highest point in county

If you don't climb to the highest point, you can not claim the county.

A good example of this is in Connecticut where the highest summit, Bear Mtn, is lower than the highest point in Connecticut, where the state line crosses the south slope of Mt Frissell. State highpointers seek this highest point (not Bear Mtn), county high points are determined in the same manner.

Open issues

  • 7A. Former counties legislated out of existence.

  • 8A. Strip mines & gravel pits all over big natural HP area.

  • 11. List errors and later fixes. This includes higher ground found and/or finding more areas that tie the HP in elevation.

  • 13. Changing unvegetated sand dunes/Mississippi river mud hills (see LA).