Home     Help   Index     Login
Is Geography Hijacking Bivouac? #1132
Back To Discussion List Written: 2004.03.08 by: Scott Nelson

In recent months it seems that a lot of effort on this site has been focussed on geographical tasks. Prominences of peaks, passes, and now mathematical definitions of range boundaries. For me bivouac has always been about getting into the mountains, not looking at maps and talking about them. I visit this site for trip reports, road bulletins, etc.

Now I have made a contribution to the prominence data on Bivouac, but that was substantially motivated by me seeing a lot of peaks dissapear off the Java Map utility in some of my favourite areas. (btw I love the Javamap as a tool for navigating bivouac). Anyway, I was wondering where everybody stands on this.



#266 - 2004.03.19 Mike Cleven - Camelsfoot Range is part of Chilcotin Ranges according to NTS system
In reply to Drew's comment about Holland's classification system, the grounds for my own classification of the Chilcotin Ranges as including the Camelsfoot is based on the NTS topo series markings. It sounds as if Holland's classification crosses the Bridge River to get as far as Lillooet, i.e. including Mission Ridge and (?) the Bendor Range; but the NTS system clearly specifies the Bendor and McGillivray-Noel Ranges as part of the "Pacific Ranges"; Mission Ridge is not classified at all under that system BTW. Where these NTS classifications come from I don't know, but they're on very old maps as well as more recent issues (I used to have, and may in tattered bits of it still here and there) an early' 50s BC Lands map, the old "Bridge River" 1:250,000, which showed the same markings. I suspect that it was Frank Swannell who originally came up with these designations, as he was the one who tromped all over the province doing the on-the-ground survey work at the turn of the century (i.e. 1900 not 2000). The northwestern/western boundary of the Chilcotin Ranges I've never been certain of, either in the Holland or the NTS systems, however. As far as "the Chilcotin" goes its traditional boundary as a geocultural region is the Churn Creek-Mud Lakes-Dash Hill area, but that's not the same thing as the Chilcotin Ranges, no more than "the Lillooet" (as in the locally-used abbreviated form of "the Lillooet Country") doesn't take in the whole of the Lillooet Ranges. As far as "the Fraser Plateau" goes, that theoretically includes some of the Omineca as well as the Endako-Ootsa area as well as the whole of the Chilcotin and of course the Cariboo and Bonaparte plateaux and Marble and Clear Ranges. These and other minor ranges which aren't part of the formal "big range" designation (e.g. Coast Range, Rockies etc) have to fit in somewhere; e.g. the Ilgachuz Range, which obviously is part of the Chilcotin as a region even though the Itcha-Ilgachuz volcanisms aren't technically part of the Coast Range, or the Chilcotin Ranges either. As it happens I discovered while "prominencing" this last week that the small, hilly Fawnie Range (N of the Blackwater, E of Ootsa) has as its higher ground the Ilgachuz rather than the Coast Range to the west of them. The critical saddle for that region, then, isn't Tatla Lake but the Dean-Nechako divide at Captain Harry Lake. That's a side issue to the debate, and I doubt that any mountaineers would find any of the Fawnie Range all that interesting for climbing purposes, but a mountain's a mountain and it has to fit somewhere.

Back to the Camelsfoot - IMO these peaks are too much mountains to be considered to be "plateau". A different matter when you've got buttes like Anvil Mountain or the ones up towards Nazko, or the isolated volcanoes of the Ilgachuz, where they're part of a plateau-esque terrain.

I have my own issues with overly applying Robin's new geographic system to dividing up the province into specific regions, and my own feeling is that these should be based on access corridors as much as on contiguous terrain/topographic qualities. But it's a given that something has to be done in order to "classify" the various parts of the province for cataloguing reasons, and it's of course debatable whether the parameters used are access, geology, "biogeography", historical and/ or native culture/identity, and so on. There's also the point that ranges as defined might often cross over regional boundaries, i.e. "region" and "range" should not be confused or one considered a subset of the other. The southern and eastern part of the Chilcotin Ranges are part of the Bridge River-Lillooet Country; the central and western are obviously part of the Chilcotin. Same with the Lillooet Ranges - the Cayoosh is part of the Lillooet Country; but the area down around Urquhart and Breckenridge isn't. The old "Nahatlatch-Stein" designation was (to me) incredibly inapt, by the way...


#265 - 2004.03.16 Drew Brayshaw - Standard work on defining physiographic boundaries in BC
Rather than reinventing the wheel I would suggest that the geographic boundaries defined in Holland (1976) be used for major range and area boundaries. This work (Landforms of British Columbia; A Physiographic Outline) by Stuart Holland was published by the then BC Department of Mines and Petroleum Resources and contains precise descriptions of the geographic extent and boundaries of every named mountain range and sub range in the province. It is a standard reference work for BC geographers. Copies can be found in most major libraries and in the Geography Department of UBC.

For instance, p. 43 briefly describes the Chilcotin Ranges, the exact boundaries of which have been discussed before on this site. The boundaries as defined in Holland are : southeastward from the head of the Klinaklini to Lillooet. Western boundary: eastern edge of Coast Intrusive Complex. Eastern boundary: The 5,500 foot contour from Klinaklini to Taseko Lakes, and the 6,000 foot contour from Taseko to head of the Yalakom. Boundary then follows Yalakom and Bridge to Lillooet. Camelsfoot Range is part of Fraser Plateau, not Chilcotin Ranges.

For Bivouac we would need to define the western boundary of the Chiilcotin Ranges a little more precisely -the Bridge River to the icefield, and past that a line running to the south end of Taseko Lake and then along Doran Creek and the bottom of the Niut Range, perhaps.

Even if not using the exact boundaries defined in Holland the book is worth looking at for the nice B+W oblique aerial photos of peaks like Waddington and Edziza.

#264 - 2004.03.16 Scott Nelson - Geography is not the only way to define areas
Yes, geography does provide a convenient (and unique) way to define the regions in our mountains, but it is not the only way. Access (as Drew pointed out) is a very common way of grouping mountains in various guidebooks. Also, I think geology is just as valid as geography for grouping areas based on the climbing experience. Some areas have exceptionally good, or bad rock as compared to nearby peaks, and I think these distinctions are more important to mountaineers than the locations of particular saddle points and such.

#263 - 2004.03.16 Drew Brayshaw - Using Prominence Saddles to Divide Areas
Despite Robin's praise for locating a few saddles on Vancouver Island I can't really claim to have been doing anything important... the key saddles are almost all located on highways or railroads anyways. Which brings me to the point that the prominence saddles are not always the best way to divide up regions either... a case in point would be in the Cascades. Going by prominence the Silvertip-Payne group would be included in with summits like Outram and Tulameen,. since the Silver-Skagit pass is lower than Hope Slide. However, to my thinking it makes more sense to include it with the other summits to the south of Highway 3 as is done in the Skagit chapter of the Fairley guide...

#262 - 2004.03.15 Robin Tivy - Trip reports are more important than prominence
Most people I've talked to say TRIP REPORTS are the most important thing on the website. I am well aware that prominence isn't everything. That is why I reorganized the "What's New" to put trip reports, photo essays and road bulletins on the front page. (Remember when everything used to be on the front page? No-one is obligated to dig into the "updated infrastructure" section to see the latest prominence work. Its just one statistic that happens to be useful for understanding how things fit together. For example, just the other day I was looking at Vancouver Island, and discovered that Drew Brayshaw had calculated a bunch of very important promiences, and through his work, I was suddenly able to see how the whole Vancouver Island breaks apart into sensible regions. Without those numbers, I wouldn't have homed in on peaks like Victoria, and Rugged. I just used the Peak Lister, and listed the peaks in prominence order, and right away could see where the deepest and most geographically significant passes were located.

Same thing with the work of Mike Cleven. Suddenly it brought to my attention peaks I had never heard of that need to be investigated. Without this work, the encyclopedia would be a lot poorer. Prominence happens to solve a number of organizational problems in the encyclopedia such as looking for sensible region boundaries. It happens to be useful when producing maps, and describing mountain ranges. So what's the problem? Arguments about how irrelevant it is could equally well be applied to height. Neither statistic is the total measure of a mountain. Yet I don't see anyone arguing that we should stop listing or calculating the HEIGHT of mountains. The real thing needed is to dig out information on whatever mountains interest you, for whatever reason. How do you access it? Where is it located? What is it like?

#259 - 2004.03.11 Drew Brayshaw - Agree
I think prominence is basically a useless criterion, and is being artificially valued on this site far above what its true relevance is. I would like to see more effort concentrated on the strengths of the site and less on abstruse statistical values. If about a 10th of the time that was spent calculating prominence values for peaks and passes was spent instead researching and entering data on areas that are not well represented in the encyclopedia like the Arctic mountains we would all be a lot better off.

#258 - 2004.03.11 Jordan Peters - How to Get Ahead
The concern for me here is that bivouac has gotten ahead of preexisting nomenclature. There are a number of items and areas on this site that have been "swept over". That is, we have gone ahead and named (or codified) features, based on our own systems, which already have history in the literature. I think we should be very cautious in getting ahead of ourselves. For example, in the Eastern Cayoosh, we have gone ahead and codified the area with CY, and THEN deleted the minor peaks so that a search for CY peaks turns up 5,9,11, and 19 -- but we don't know where the other ones are. Now the kicker: many of these peaks had names applied to them by Alan Greer in the 90 CAJ. So we have disregarded the most definitive resource in the community? It seems a bit of a mess.

Bivouac fills a mammoth hole in the lives of BC mountaineers, I'm sure we all agree. But I think for it to become authoritative in the larger community, we must work with the CAJ, with Fairley, with Beckey and not try to get too radical lest we lose legitimacy ( and as a web-based system, we do have to prove our worth against the stuffy print jobs!). That means that as editors we should be trying to insert those vague route descriptions from dusty CAJs and not just focus on the "gee whiz" factor of the photo essays (and yes, I include myself among the guilty). Also, when a peak is changed from an elevation (Peak 8133 North Creek) to the code (Hywhatever), care needs to be taken to not "orphan" articles and photo essays for that mtn record. This seems to have been lost on some at times and there are many photo essays floating around in the purgatory of the server, unattached to the now-changed mtn page.

#257 - 2004.03.11 David Campbell - ...But don't mountaineers have a little more imagination?
I can agree with Robin, in the sense that we can learn a bit more about mountains and how they relate to those around them. But something really seems to be lost in the sense of adventure when we need to really quantify the importance of something. Does knowing knowing that Mt. Monarch is 300m higher from it's nearest col, make it that much more enticing? Or is climbing some pinnacle off of Tantalus less aesthetic because it's only 100m tall? I think mountaineers have a little bit more imagination than that. Interesting regions usually stem out of reputation, or lore; areas you see from a distance and you "want to go there"; areas that spring from the map because of challenging or unique approaches. I think that these are the things that drive us.

#255 - 2004.03.09 Robin Tivy - Prominence is about getting into the mountains
A lot of the value of the prominence work has not yet been released. One of the main motivators for the prominence is to be able to come to terms with the entire mountain terrain, not just a bunch of heights. The Bivouac peak lister was pretty bad when all it could do was list the 20 highest peaks in BC, and 10 of them were subpeaks of Waddington. Now with prominence, you can generate all sorts of interesting lists. Now you can really see some interesting and important peaks that are worth exploring. Have a look at the top 26 peaks in BC with 2000m of prominence. There's lots of really interesting peaks there, and I'm going to climb some of them. For me, getting out there for me has always been about experiencing the "whole terrain" of the mounains: valleys, passes, rivers, and the summit at all costs. To quote John Baldwin from back in the 1970's:

"Mount Rainier is an interesting thing, but its NOT in the mountains".

Mountains are not stand-alone objects that can be totally summed up with a single statistic (its height). What you want to think about are the passes, ridges, valleys and great drainages of the terrain. It is these that give the summit its meaning. Of course the height is significant as well, but its not the only significance.

The best is yet to come. The ongoing prominence research is going to give us the basis for a proper hierarchial breakdown and arrangement into regions of all the peaks, so we can truly get a grasp on the terrain in our minds, and go climbing and exploring points of signfiicance. That's something Bivouac people have wanted for ages, (in addition to lookup by name) but we've never been able to do. We're getting close, and its really exciting. This is new stuff.

Trip reports are the backbone of the bivouac website, not statistics. But you've got to have an objective. This summer, I'm looking forward to some P2000 trip reports. As many as possible. What about Torii? What about Ulysesses? Somebodys got to go there! How do you get there? Can you do it overland? And perhaps you forgot about Gladsheim and Farnham? Well, forget no more. They are on the P2000 list. This summer we need to knock some of them off and come back with a full trip report, access details, and photos. Perhaps the P2000's haven't yet been catalogued. Maybe there are more! Every day I check in Bivouac to see if another has been discovered. Has any one man been up more than 10 of them in history? We all know about the 54 or 56 11,000 foot peaks in the rockies, but what about the 26 P2000's. When's the last time you heard some man on the street at Macdonalds talking about them? Infinitely more varied, each one a major expedition, and each one the highest thing around for as far as you can see. Its time to plan.