Monday, July 19, 2010


Why are mountains higher in the US (on average) than they are in Europe?

This is an old riddle that someone once told me that has to do with the difference in definition of what a mountain is in the two places. I was once told that in Europe, a mountain is any land mass which rises by at least 1,000' from the surrounding area with at least a 2° average slope; whereas in America, the rules are at least a 2,000' increase in elevation with an average slope of 5°.

I cannot find any authoritative definition of this so I really cannot say what the rules are (and anyone out there who does have the actual definitions, it would be cool if you would comment with the specs. – thanks!) but whatever the actual definition, it does not change what I read this weekend being impossible.

There is a father and son team of mountaineers who are attempting to set a record and climb fifty peaks in fifty states in fifty days. Interesting! I am not sure how they mean to do this.

My initial take on this was that Florida (a state I know a little something about, having lived almost half my life in my native state) has no mountains. The highest point in the state of Florida is Britton Hill, up in the panhandle near the Alabama boarder.

Britton Hill rises to a breath-taking (for Florida) height of 345' and since the lowest point in the state is just at, or slightly under, sea level there is no way that the variance of the entire state could be more than 350'. The pair will have no challenge scaling the highest peak in the state.

Which led me to wonder… How many other states don't have mountains? I took a look at a topological map and there are a few candidates for being eliminated from the 50-50-50 quest. Louisiana, for example, ranges from 8' below sea level to just under 600' above. Iowa spans only 1,200' from its lowest to its highest point and as those are on opposite sides of the state, it is unlikely to meet the slop requirements. Do the pair plan to visit the states without mountains and then climb two peaks in some other state?

I hope that they don’t let a little thing like having no mountains in some states ruin their goal. Aside from being impossible to actually do as stated in the news, it sounds like a really ambitious project.

Wherever you are today, I hope you won't let little things like being impossible keep you from reaching toward your goal!

Don Bergquist – July 19, 2010 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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