Monday, October 31, 2016

Post-Trip Highpoint Difficulty Rankings

And now it's time to do something I've wanted to do ever since I arrived in Seattle: rank the high points by difficulty!

I'd come across the Martin Classification of state high point difficulty while planning my trip, but it didn't quite satisfy me. For one, it only considers the easiest route to a high point's summit, which leads to sizeable mountains like North Carolina's Mt. Mitchell and New Hampshire's Mt. Washington being ranked in the easiest class. While technically correct, in that those summits can both be accessed by walking less than 0.2 miles, such a ranking is useless to one who intends to hike those high points from their base. What's more, both those mountains have "standard approach" trails that could easily be incorporated into the ranking alongside the drive-up routes.

And second, Martin's classification takes little account of the technical difficulty of a route; instead, it relies almost exclusively on elevation gain and trail length. This also leads to some odd rankings, in my opinion (for instance, the gentle stroll up Black Mesa, OK is ranked a class above the rough, rocky trails on Mt. Frissell, CT and Mt. Mansfield, VT). While an experienced mountaineer considering the glaciated Western high points might not care whether the approach is Class 1 or Class 2 terrain, the distinction matters to casual hikers, not to mention those with mobility issues, acrophobia, and/or small children in tow. And regardless of ability, many people would find a 7-mile hike easier than a 4-mile scramble of equal elevation gain (just ask anyone who's done both Mt. Marcy and Katahdin's Knife-Edge which was harder).

Thus, I've put together my own ranking of the highpoints I've climbed, available here as a list and on my homepage (where I control the backend code) as a sortable table. The standard route up each high point (as selected by me) is listed below, as are any alternate routes of sufficiently different character (again, my judgement call). Starred routes are featured in this blog. I intend to complete this ranking as I continue highpointing, so check back for additions.


Handley Classification of Difficulty for U.S. State High Points: (in ascending order of difficulty)

1. Drive-ups (<10 ft. from the nearest parking; trivial elevation gain)
  • *Cheaha Mountain, AL (via park road)
  • Black Mountain, KY (via Black Mountain Ridge Rd.)
  • Brasstown Bald, GA (via shuttle from parking lot)
  • *Campbell Hill, OH (via career center road)
  • *Ebright Azimuth, DE (via Ebright Rd.)
  • *Hawkeye Point, IA (via IA-160 and 130th St.)
  • High Point, NJ (via park road)
  • Mt. Davis, PA (via park road)
  • *Mt. Greylock, MA (via park road)
  • *Mt. Sunflower, KS (via Rd. Wa-N3 and farm road)
  • *Panorama Point, NE (via County Road 5 and ranch road)
  • Woodall Mountain, MS (via County Rd. 185)

2. Walk-ups (<.25 mi. from the nearest parking; <100 ft. elevation gain; terrain no harder than Class 1)
  • *Britton Hill, FL (via N Co Hwy 285)
  • *Hoosier Hill, IN (via Elliott Rd.)
  • Mt. Arvon, MI (via Ravine River Rd.)
  •  Sassafras Mountain, SC (via F. Van Clayton Memorial Hwy.)
  • Mt. Washington, NH (via toll road and stairs)
  • Taum Sauk Mountain, MO (alone)
  • *Jerimoth Hill, RI (via path from RI-101)
  • *Spruce Knob, WV (via County Rd. 104)
  • Mt. Mitchell, NC (via the Blue Ridge Pkwy.)
  • Charles Mound, IL (via gravel road from upper parking lot)

3. Quick hikes (.25-1.5 mi. from the nearest parking; <750 ft. elevation gain; terrain no harder than Class 2)
  • *Timms Hill, WI (via park trail)
  • *Clingmans Dome, TN (via Clingmans Dome Access Rd.)
  • *Mt. Davis, PA (via trail from Mt. Davis Picnic Area)
  •  Brasstown Bald, GA (via path from parking lot)
  • *Driskill Mountain, LA (via trail from Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church)
  • *Magazine Mountain, AR (from the trailhead nearest to the lodge along the park road)
  • Charles Mound, IL (walking from W Charles Mound Rd.)
  • *Woodall Mountain, MS (walking from County Rd. 176)
  • *Black Mountain, KY (walking from VA-160)
  • High Point, NJ (via Appalachian Trail from NJ-23)
  • *Hoye-Crest, MD (via trail from US-219)
  • *White Butte, ND (via trail from local road)
  • Mt. Mansfield, VT (via Stowe Toll Road and the Long Trail)

4. Half-day hikes (1.5-3 mi. from the nearest parking; <1900 ft. elevation gain; terrain Class 1-2)
  • *Taum Sauk Mountain, MO (and Mina Sauk Falls, via Mina Sauk Falls trail)
  • *Sassafras Mountain, SC (via Foothills Trail from Chimneytop Gap)
  • *Mt. Frissell, CT (via Mt. Frissell Trail from Mt. Washington Rd.)
  • *Brasstown Bald, GA (via trail from Jacks Gap)

5. Day hikes (3-8 mi. from the nearest parking; <4300 ft. elevation gain; terrain Class 1-2)
  • *Black Mesa, OK (via trail from Black Mesa Nature Preserve entrance)
  • *Eagle Mountain, MN (trail from Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Access Point #79)
  • Black Elk Peak, SD (via Trail #9 (South) from Custer State Park)
  • Mt. Greylock, MA (via Hopper Trail from Hopper Rd.)
  • Mt. Rogers, VA (via Appalachian Trail from Grayson Highlands State Park)
  • Mt. Arvon, MI (walking from Roland Lake Rd.)
  • Clingmans Dome, TN (via Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap)
  • *Guadalupe Peak, TX (via Guadalupe Peak Trail from Pine Springs Campground)
  • *Mt. Mitchell, NC (via Mt. Mitchell Trail from Black Mountain Campground)
  • *Mt. Mansfield, VT (via Sunset Ridge Trail from Underhill State Park)
  • Katahdin, ME (via Appalachian Trail from Katahdin Stream Campground)
  • Mt. Marcy, NY (via trails from Adirondak Loj)
  • *Mt. Washington, NH (via Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center)

6. Scrambles (3.5-8 mi. from the nearest parking; <5300 ft. elevation gain, terrain up to Class 3)
  • *Katahdin, ME (via Helon Taylor and Knife Edge trails from Roaring Brook Campground)
  • *Borah Peak, ID (via Chicken-Out Ridge trail from Borah Peak Trailhead)

And that's it for Larvitar Eats Mountains for now. Thank you for reading along! I hope it's been as fun for you as it was for me to climb all those mountains.
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