County Highpointers Difficulty Ranking Project

Notes on the Technical Category

Many highpointers have asked how technical difficulty should be balanced against other related factors such as route-finding problems, how long the most difficult technical section is sustained, and even distance and elevation gain. Keep in mind that the primary philosophy of the project is to rank the high points according to "difficulty" as the concept is defined in the project's mission statement. Therefore, technical difficulty should be evaluated with this philosophy in mind.

When comparing a peak with one short technical crux move to a peak with a long section sustained near the maximum difficulty, the overriding question is: which peak is more daunting to an aspiring climber? In other words, which peak gives its aspiring climbers a greater sense of uncertainty about whether or not they can climb the peak at all?

For many, a technical crux move near the top of a remote alpine peak that can only be reached by many miles of hiking and scrambling is more daunting than an otherwise identical crux move on a roadside boulder in a city park. Therefore, the long approach should be considered in the rankings, but only as an exacerbating factor to the technical difficulty. The "overall effort" added by a long approach should not be considered.

A peak with route-finding challenges should be considered in a similar manner. If the route-finding problems make existing technical problems seem harder, then a peak with route-finding problems amid the technical section should be ranked more difficult than a peak with otherwise identical technical difficulty but no route-finding problems. A non-technical peak with route-finding challenges, however, should not be considered technical because of route-finding challenges alone.

A peak that has no technical difficulties but requires a herculean hike to reach it should not be considered technically difficult. Suppose there is a hypothetical peak in Alaska that is 100 miles from the nearest road or floatplane landing, but from there it is just a hike on gravel bars and tundra with a climb through open taiga near the top of the peak. Although the 200-mile round trip hike would be a show-stopper for many, it is not grounds to uprate the technical difficulty, since there is no technical diffculty to begin with. A herculean hike is grounds for a high ranking in the overall category, but not in the technical category unless it exacerbates existing technical difficulty.

In summary, one should rank the technical difficulty of a peak as follows: how much potential does the peak have to be a show-stopper or a barrier to state completion due to technical challenges?

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