County Highpointers Difficulty Ranking Project

Mission Statement

The goal of this project is to generate ordered lists of the easiest and most difficult county high points to climb, as determined by votes submitted by highpointers familiar with them. The focus is on characteristics of high points that are not objectively quantifiable, such as technical climbing barriers, vegetation barriers, legal barriers, and comparisons between disparate types of difficulty. Strictly mathematical characteristics, such as hiking distance and elevation gain, are not part of the project since they are directly measureable and it is meaningless to vote on them. Although the project does not involve a vote on distance or elevation gain alone, the relative difficulty of these metrics compared to other characteristics may still be subjective, and may be considered when casting a vote.

"Difficulty" has a specific meaning in relation to this project, and it is not to be confused with "effort". While large hiking distance and elevation gain can make a high point require more effort, they do not necessarily make it more difficult. A person who can hike 2 miles to a high point can probably hike 10 miles to a high point. A person who can climb 1000 feet to a high point can probably climb 5000 feet to a high point. Distance and elevation gain, while strongly related to time, physical effort, and other resources needed to reach a high point, are rarely "show stoppers" that can prevent a high pointer from reaching a high point at all.

A difficult high point, on the other hand, is one that involves a challenge that has the potential to make a highpointer feel uncertain about whether or not they can climb it at all. Technical climbing, heavy brush and swamps, and access issues are examples of conditions that may lead a highpointer wonder if a high point is physically impossible, a "show stopper", and/or a barrier to state completion. Distance and elevation gain may also fall in this category, but only if they are so great that some may consider it prohibitive.

Voting Categories

Rankings are maintained in the following categories of difficulty:

To Consider or not

A highpointer may be tempted to consider matters that pertain to one's personal situation and have little to do with the nature of the high point itself. For example, a highpointer who lives on the west coast and finds it prohibitive to travel to an east coast high point should not use that fact as a basis to consider a high point far from home to be more difficult than an otherwise identical high point close to home. Examples of issues that voters are discouraged from considering for this type of reason include: On the other hand, personal abilities that relate directly to characteristics of the high point itself should be considered. Examples of this nature include: In addition, a highpointer should not consider personal choices that make a highpoint significantly more difficult than necessary. For example: Finally, a highpointer should not consider transient conditions that affect a highpointer's personal experience on a highpoint, e.g. weather, unless it is inevitable that any highpointer would encounter those conditions. Athough occasional or frequent bad weather is characteristic of many highpoints, highpoint difficulty should still be ranked as if done in the best weather that the highpoint typically offers.

For more hints on how to consider different aspects of technical difficulty, click here.

Voting Guidelines

County highpointers having first-hand experience with multiple high points are eligible to submit votes regarding their relative difficulty. This is done by submitting a list of counties, ranked in order of how difficult the highpointer believes their high points are, to the person who maintains the voting data. Specific voting instructions are described here. A voter may vote for as many or as few counties as s/he chooses provided that the vote involves only counties with which the voter has first-hand experience. The vote will help rank the counties involved in the vote, while having no effect on counties not in the vote.

All 50 states, including Alaska, are eligible to be ranked in all categories.

The method used to analyze the votes and produce an output ranking is the Schulze method. This method is the most appropriate for this project because it allows partial ballots. It remains indifferent to unlisted candidates. Candidates not mentioned by a particular voter will not be inadvertently favored or disfavored relative to any other candidate. Click here for more information on how and why the Schulze method is used to rank county highpoints.

The outcome of the vote is available here.

A Perpetual Project...

A highpointer may modify his/her vote at any time. If a highpointer visits a new high point and learns enough about it to be eligible to vote on it, s/he may submit an updated vote that includes the new high point. If a highpointer changes his or her mind about the relative difficulty of two high points climbed in the past, s/he may modify the vote. There is no voting deadline, as the outcome is maintained on an ongoing basis. Whenever a new vote causes a change in the outcome, that change will be communicated to the group as soon as practicable thereafter.

So that the person who maintains the vote data can accomodate changes on an ongoing basis, a highpointer must identify him/herself when submitting a vote. Although voters must identify themselves, a voter's identity will be withheld from all other parties upon request. Although a voter has the right to remain anonymous, all voters are encouraged to allow their identity to be disclosed so as to facilitate open discussion about the topic. If a person sees a final ranking s/he believes is crazy, the person who maintains the vote data will, upon request, provide a list of all non-anonynmous highpointers who voted in the way that the requestor disagrees with. It will then be incumbent upon the requestor to convince the other voters to change their vote.