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New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby oldschool » Thu Aug 18, 2011 2:46 pm

+1 JB99! Do things in life because you want to.
"There's a feeling I get when I look to the West and my spirit is crying for leaving" Led Zeppelin

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:25 pm

"New" elevations are just another round of numbers that are likely incorrect for all peaks. Based on how they were acquired, I'll stick with "likely incorrect." The elevation of our peaks have been re-stated throughout the years and we'll never know the exact elevations until they are measured with sub-meter accuracy, or better. To get back to the original post... To avoid confusion when climbers are looking at actual USGS topo maps, I prefer to use (on 14ers.com) the most recently published topo map elevations. Are they perfect? Nope, but at least they match the maps.

So, is "Sunlight Spire" a 14er. Well, certainly not by the criteria I use on 14ers.com but I'm no authority. Has it individually been measured to be 14,000+ feet? I don't think so. Even if "Sunlight Spire" is 14,000+ feet, it doesn't rise 300' above the saddle with Sunlight. So, by that criteria, it's no more special than "Northwest Lindsey," which is nothing more than a bump on the ridge as you approach the summit of Mt. Lindsey. I'd like to see proof that the spire was measured at 14,000+ feet and not just assumed to be that high since "new" elevation recalculations are said to average 5-10 feet in the area. If it was officially re-stated by the USGS on a map or in the geo names system (maybe it is and I missed it?), then I'd add it to the 14ers.com list.

I've said this many times, but... What we need is better technology that will map out our peak elevations (from satellites) in a precise manner. Until then, we'll always have to deal with peaks that teeter on the edges of our rough measurements. We simply don't have precise enough measuring tools to perfectly classify summits near our "special" numbers. Until then, our numbers are only "close."

Also, to avoid confusion when climbers are looking at actual USGS topo maps, I prefer to use the more recently published map elevations. Are they perfect? Nope, but at least they match the maps.

One more thought... The "oh, but it's such a cool 'peak'" issue frequently comes into play. Take "North Massive" for example. It's not named or much difference (criteria-wise) than, say, "North Snowmass" or "West Wilson," but some people want it to be included as an official 14er because of it's features, difficulty, etc. "West Wilson" isn't very "cool" looking but it's really not much different than "North Massive."
Only SNOW will end the madness

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby tmathews » Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:37 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:To avoid confusion when climbers are looking at actual USGS topo maps, I prefer to use (on 14ers.com) the most recently published topo map elevations. Are they perfect? Nope, but at least they match the maps.


Speaking of new elevations, I noticed that in Roach's 4th Edition that he has designated the Chicago Basin 14ers as the "Windom Group" based on an elevation of 14,087 for Windom -- which is a change over the 3rd Edition. Do you know if that's an elevation based on a newly-published USGS topo map? I was wondering where the data for the new elevation he's using came from.

Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby Jon Frohlich » Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:44 pm

tmathews wrote:
BillMiddlebrook wrote:To avoid confusion when climbers are looking at actual USGS topo maps, I prefer to use (on 14ers.com) the most recently published topo map elevations. Are they perfect? Nope, but at least they match the maps.


Speaking of new elevations, I noticed that in Roach's 4th Edition that he has designated the Chicago Basin 14ers as the "Windom Group" based on an elevation of 14,087 for Windom -- which is a change over the 3rd Edition. Do you know if that's an elevation based on a newly-published USGS topo map? I was wondering where the data for the new elevation he's using came from.


I think the Geoid has been revised more than once since the 2nd edition so 14,087 might have come from one of the revisions. Right now GNIS lists Windom as 14,091 (presuming that's based on the last revision from a couple years ago). Summitpost still has 14,082 listed. Oddly Mount Elbert still shows up as 14,426 in GNIS.

http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/f?p=154:3:688414225480390::NO::P3_FID,P3_TITLE:187990%2CWindom%20Peak

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby Jim Davies » Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:52 pm

In the peak list in the new edition, he gives two elevations for each peak: NGVD29 and NAVD88. The latter are the newer, higher ones. Here's what he says in the appendix about this:
The USGS has changed from the very old NGVD29 vertical datum to the newer, more accurate NAVD88 vertical datum and announced new altitudes for all of Colorado's Fourteeners. The USGS adjusted the elevations for all Fourteeners upward from three to seven feet. The peaks have not instantly gained height, since this is just a mathematical adjustment. In the texts, the peaks are headlined with the traditional, old elevations. The new elevations are given in the essentials section with each peak. Both the old and new elevations are given in the Fourteener lists that follow.

The 14,087 for Windom is NGVD29. Its NAVD88 is 14,092. Eolus is lower in both measures: 14,084 and 14,089. My topo (and Roach's map, even in the new edition) shows them as 14,082 and 14,083 respectively, which might be why he used to call it the "Eolus Group".

Roach's elevations for the unnamed 14K+ points are estimated for NAVD88, and also for Cameron, Conundrum, and Eolus. Sunlight Spire isn't on his 14er list.
Last edited by Jim Davies on Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby SLKRR » Thu Aug 18, 2011 7:05 pm

Five to seven feet of difference really doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. There are peaks down here in South America that have measurements up to 100 meters off in some places. Brazil recently remeasured its high points to sub-meter accuracy, and most of those were off a good 25 meters from the old numbers.

I personally like to use the new 14er height numbers just because they are higher :wink: , but in terms of accuracy, they are the same old survey numbers that have just been readjusted to a new vertical datum. They aren't from a new and better survey.
Last edited by SLKRR on Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby KentonB » Fri Aug 19, 2011 6:10 am

Just to muddy the waters more... all of our elevations are based on a geoid model that is a "best estimate" as to the average sea level over the earth at different points. There have been many models over the decades and while they don't differ too much, it does add some variability.

As an interesting tidbit (and just to show how confusing this can get), the highest peak in the world (as measured from the center of the earth) is actually Chimborazo in Ecuador, not Everest... this is due to the earth's "bulge" at the equator.

Sooo... back to my guiding philosophy... "climb 'em all just to make sure!"

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby SLKRR » Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:34 am

If anyone is really curious about the NAVD88 heights, as compared to the old NGVD29 heights, just use this handy converter:

http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/VERTCON/vert_con.prl

Plug in the latitude, longitude, and "old" height of the point you are interested in, and it will return the "new" elevation.

For those interested in the "Sunlight Spire": It has a surveyed height of 13,995 using the NGVD29 datum. When you run this through the converter, it reports a shift of 5.89 feet, or a "new" height of 14,000.89 feet.

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby ejfred » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:43 am

KentonB wrote:Just to muddy the waters more... all of our elevations are based on a geoid model that is a "best estimate" as to the average sea level over the earth at different points. There have been many models over the decades and while they don't differ too much, it does add some variability.

As an interesting tidbit (and just to show how confusing this can get), the highest peak in the world (as measured from the center of the earth) is actually Chimborazo in Ecuador, not Everest... this is due to the earth's "bulge" at the equator.

Sooo... back to my guiding philosophy... "climb 'em all just to make sure!"


[Useless Trivia Warning]
In the interest of further confusion...Chimborazo is indeed the farthest point from the center of the earth due to the equatorial bulge. But Mauna Kea in Hawaii is actually the tallest mountain from base to peak, (about 10,000 feet more than Everest). The difference is most of Mauna Kea is underwater, which is why it isn't considered to be the tallest in the world.
[/Useless Trivia Warning]

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby SLKRR » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:32 am

ejfred wrote:[Useless Trivia Warning]
In the interest of further confusion...Chimborazo is indeed the farthest point from the center of the earth due to the equatorial bulge. But Mauna Kea in Hawaii is actually the tallest mountain from base to peak, (about 10,000 feet more than Everest). The difference is most of Mauna Kea is underwater, which is why it isn't considered to be the tallest in the world.
[/Useless Trivia Warning]


New peak-bagging challenge: climb Mauna Kea from its base! Bonus points for not using oxygen... :twisted:

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby Mujahid » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:34 am

Hacksaw wrote:Has any peak gotten shorter?



Actually, based on my research, one peak in the highest 200 has lost elevation (i.e., NAVD88 vs. NGVD29 ). Mount Ouray is 10' shorter in elevation. According to the most current Nat'l Geodetic Survey data sheet (http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/datasheet.prl) the peak is now 13,961' vs. 13,971' (as published by USGS on the Mt. Ouray quad, dated 1980). Interestingly, the NGS data sheet that I mention includes a 1986 surveyed control elevation for Ouray of 13,955'. I suspect the 1980 USGS quad was in error as the NGS NAVD88 adjustment increased elevations for most of the Sawatch by 5-7 feet. In any event, Mount Ouray keeps its place at 58th highest in the state.

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Re: New Height for Mt. Elbert?

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:51 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:Has it individually been measured to be 14,000+ feet? I don't think so.


Bill, you're certainly more into this stuff and more of an authority than many of us, myself included. So I'm curious as to why we see so many written references to the Spire's revised elevation at 14,000 feet? For example, we see it on the Summit Post and Mountainproject listings for the peak. Where are these people getting the information? Is it just being passed around as heresay? I'm curious as to the source for these reports that its elevation is 14,000. Thoughts?

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