To­po­graph­i­cal promi­nence

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS - Trai● says Phi● Bode■, Swa■sea

QWhat is meant by the term promi­nence and how is it dif­fer­ent to the sum­mit height of a moun­tain?

If you have ever Googled the height of a moun­tain, along­side its ab­so­lute el­e­va­tion above sea level you will likely have also been given its promi­nence. To­po­graph­i­cal promi­nence is a cal­cu­la­tion of a moun­tain’s height rel­a­tive to its sur­round­ing area, or the next near­est ‘par­ent peak’. A par­ent peak is the clos­est higher moun­tain to an­other moun­tain on the same ridge. Promi­nence is cal­cu­lated by mea­sur­ing the ver­ti­cal dis­tance from a peak to the low­est con­tour line be­tween that and the near­est higher (par­ent) peak. This point is called the key col.

Promi­nence is sig­nif­i­cant as a moun­tain with a large promi­nence is very of­ten the high­est moun­tain in a given area, and sub­se­quently such peaks tend to boast spec­tac­u­lar views. Low promi­nence peaks are ei­ther sub­sidiary tops of loftier neigh­bour­ing peaks or rel­a­tively diminu­tive in­de­pen­dent sum­mits.

A good ex­am­ple of a recog­nis­able moun­tain with great promi­nence is De­nali in the United States, which has an el­e­va­tion of 6190m and promi­nence of 6140m. Con­versely, de­spite hav­ing an el­e­va­tion of 964m, the promi­nence of Eng­land’s sec­ond-high­est moun­tain, Scafell, is just 133m, with the low­est con­tour on the Mick­le­dore ridge that con­nects to its par­ent peak, Scafell Pike. The par­ent peak of Scafell Pike, which has a promi­nence of 912m, is Snow­don, de­spite the two moun­tains be­ing over 100 miles apart as the crow flies!

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