In topography, prominence[a] measures the height of a mountain or hill's summit relative to the lowest contour line encircling it but containing no higher summit within it. It is a measure of the independence of a summit. A peak's key col (highest gap between two mountains) is a unique point on this contour line and the parent peak is some higher mountain, selected according to various objective criteria.
There are at least two (related) definitions of prominence:
The following mental exercise may illustrate the meaning of topographic prominence. Imagine a peak and imagine that an imaginary sea level (based on an elevation above the Geoid) rises to the peak. Now slowly lower the imaginary sea level and an imaginary island appears beneath your feet. The island will grow and will merge with other islands that emerge. Eventually, the island will touch an island with a higher peak than the initial island (i.e., an imaginary island that existed before lowering the imaginary sea level.) The summit of that island is the parent peak of the summit, the point at which the two islands touch is the key col of the summit, and the elevation rise from the key col to the summit is the topographic prominence of the summit.
The parent peak may be either close or far from the subject peak. The summit of Mount Everest is the parent peak of Aconcagua at a distance of 17,755 km (11,032 miles), as well as the parent of the South Summit of Mount Everest at a distance of 360 m (1200 feet). The key col may also be close to the subject peak or far from it. The key col for Aconcagua, if sea level is disregarded, is the Bering Strait at a distance of 13,655 km (8,485 miles). The key col for the South Summit of Mount Everest is about 100 m (330 feet) distant.
Prominence is interesting to many mountaineers because it is an objective measurement that is strongly correlated with the subjective significance of a summit. Peaks with low prominence are either subsidiary tops of some higher summit or relatively insignificant independent summits. Peaks with high prominence tend to be the highest points around and are likely to have extraordinary views.
Only summits with a sufficient degree of prominence are regarded as independent mountains. For example, the world's second-highest mountain is K2 (height 8,611 m, prominence 4,017 m). While Mount Everest's South Summit (height 8,749 m, prominence 11 m) is taller than K2, it is not considered an independent mountain because it is a sub-summit of the main summit (which has a height and prominence of 8,848 m).
Many lists of mountains take topographic prominence as a criterion for inclusion, or cutoff. John and Anne Nuttall's The Mountains of England and Wales uses a cutoff of 15 m (about 50 ft), and Alan Dawson's list of Marilyns uses 150 m (about 500 ft). (Dawson's list and the term "Marilyn" are limited to Britain and Ireland). In the contiguous United States, the famous list of "fourteeners" (14,000 foot / 4268 m peaks) uses a cutoff of 300 ft / 91 m (with some exceptions). Also in the U.S., 2000 ft (610 m) of prominence has become an informal threshold that signifies that a peak has major stature. Lists with a high topographic prominence cutoff tend to favor isolated peaks or those that are the highest point of their massif; a low value, such as the Nuttalls', results in a list with many summits that may be viewed by some as insignificant.
While the use of prominence as a cutoff to form a list of peaks ranked by elevation is standard and is the most common use of the concept, it is also possible to use prominence as a mountain measure in itself. This generates lists of peaks ranked by prominence, which are qualitatively different from lists ranked by elevation. Such lists tend to emphasize isolated high peaks, such as range or island high points and stratovolcanoes. One advantage of a prominence-ranked list is that it needs no cutoff since a peak with high prominence is automatically an independent peak.
It is common to define a peak's parent as a particular peak in the higher terrain connected to the peak by the key col. If there are many higher peaks there are various ways of defining which one is the parent, not necessarily based on geological or geomorphological factors. The "parent" relationship defines a hierarchy which defines some peaks as subpeaks of others. For example, in Figure 1, the middle peak is a subpeak of the right peak, which is in turn a subpeak of the left peak, which is the highest point on its landmass. In that example, there is no controversy over the hierarchy; in practice, there are different definitions of parent. These different definitions follow.
A special case occurs for the highest point on an oceanic island or continent. Some sources define no parent in this case; others treat Mount Everest as the parent of every such peak with the ocean as the "key col".
Also called prominence island parentage, this is defined as follows. In figure 2 the key col of peak A is at the meeting place of two closed contours, one encircling A (and no higher peaks) and the other containing at least one higher peak. The encirclement parent of A is the highest peak that is inside this other contour. In terms of the falling-sea model, the two contours together bound an island, with two pieces connected by an isthmus at the key col. The encirclement parent is the highest point on this entire island.
For example, the encirclement parent of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, is Mount Everest. Mont Blanc's key col is a piece of low ground near Lake Onega in northwestern Russia (at 113 m elevation), on the divide between lands draining into the Baltic and Caspian Seas. This is the meeting place of two 113 m contours, one of them encircling Mont Blanc; the other contour encircles Mount Everest. This example demonstrates that the encirclement parent can be very far away from the peak in question when the key col is low.
This means that, while simple to define, the encirclement parent often does not satisfy the intuitive requirement that the parent peak should be close to the child peak. For example, one common use of the concept of parent is to make clear the location of a peak. If we say that Peak A has Mont Blanc for a parent, we would expect to find Peak A somewhere close to Mont Blanc. This is not always the case for the various concepts of parent, and is least likely to be the case for encirclement parentage.
Figure 3 shows a schematic range of peaks with the color underlying the minor peaks indicating the encirclement parent. In this case the encirclement parent of M is H whereas an intuitive view might be that L was the parent. Indeed, if col "k" were slightly lower, L would be the true encirclement parent.
The encirclement parent is the highest possible parent for a peak; all other definitions pick out a (possibly different) peak on the combined island, a "closer" peak than the encirclement parent (if there is one), which is still "better" than the peak in question. The differences lie in what criteria are used to define "closer" and "better."
The (prominence) parent peak of peak A can be found by dividing the island or region in question into territories, by tracing the two hydrographic runoffs, one in each direction, downwards from the key col of every peak that is more prominent than peak A. The parent is the peak whose territory peak A is in.
For hills with low prominence in Britain, a definition of 'parent Marilyn' is sometimes used to classify low hills. This is found by dividing the region of Britain in question into territories, one for each Marilyn ("Marilyn" being a British term for a hill with a prominence of at least 150 m). The parent Marilyn is the Marilyn whose territory the hill's summit is in. If the hill is on an island (in Britain) whose highest point is less than 150m, it has no parent Marilyn.
Prominence parentage is the only definition used in the British Isles because encirclement parentage breaks down when the key col approaches sea level. Using the encirclement definition, the parent of almost any small hill in a low-lying coastal area would be Ben Nevis, an unhelpful and confusing outcome. Meanwhile, 'height' parentage (see below) is not used because there is no obvious choice of cutoff.
This choice of method might at first seem arbitrary, but it provides every hill with a clear and unambiguous parent peak that is taller and more prominent than the hill itself, while also being connected to it (via ridge lines). The parent of a low hill will also usually be nearby; this becomes less likely as the hill's height and prominence increase. Using prominence parentage, one may produce a 'hierarchy' of peaks going back to the highest point on the island. One such chain in Britain would read:
At each stage in the chain, both height and prominence increase.
Line parentage, also called height parentage, is similar to prominence parentage, but it requires a prominence cutoff criterion. The height parent is the closest peak to peak A (along all ridges connected to A) that has a greater height than A, and satisfies some prominence criteria.
The disadvantage of this concept is that it goes against the intuition that a parent peak should always be more significant than its child. However it can be used to build an entire lineage for a peak which contains a great deal of information about the peak's position.
To choose among possible parents, instead of choosing the closest possible parent, it is possible to choose the one which requires the least descent along the ridge.
Alteration of the landscape by humans and presence of water features can give rise to issues in the choice of location and height of a summit or col. In Britain, extensive discussion has given rise to a protocol that has been adopted by the main sources of prominence data in Britain and Ireland. Other sources of data commonly ignore man-made alterations, but this convention is not universally agreed upon; for example, some authors discount modern structures but allow ancient ones. Another disagreement concerns mountaintop removal, though for high-prominence peaks (and for low-prominence subpeaks with intact summits), the difference in prominence values for the two conventions is typically relatively small.
The key col and parent peak are often close to the subpeak but this is not always the case, especially when the key col is relatively low. It is only with the advent of computer programs and geographical databases that thorough analysis has become possible.
The key col of Denali in Alaska (6,194 m) is a 56 m col near Lake Nicaragua (unless one accepts the Panama Canal as a key col; this is a matter of contention). Denali's encirclement parent is Aconcagua (6,960 m), in Argentina, and its prominence is 6,138 m. To further illustrate the rising-sea model of prominence, if sea level rose 56 m, North and South America would be separate continents and Denali would be 6138 m above sea level. At a slightly lower level, the continents would still be connected, and the high point of the combined landmass would be Aconcagua, the encirclement parent. Note that, for the purposes of this article, man made structures such as the Panama Canal are not taken into account. If they were, the key col would be along the 26 m Gaillard Cut and Denali would have a prominence of 6,168 m.
While it is natural for Aconcagua to be the parent of Denali, since Denali is a major peak, consider the following situation: Peak A is a small hill on the coast of Alaska, with elevation 100 m and key col 50 m. Then the encirclement parent of Peak A is also Aconcagua, even though there will be many peaks closer to Peak A which are much higher and more prominent than Peak A (for example, Denali). This illustrates the disadvantage in using the encirclement parent.
Mount Whitney (4421 m) has its key col 1,022 km (635 mi) away in New Mexico at 1347 m on the Continental Divide. Its encirclement parent is Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m), the highest mountain in Mexico. Orizaba's key col is back along the Divide, in British Columbia.
A hill in a low-lying area like the Netherlands will often be a direct child of Mount Everest, with its prominence about the same as its height and its key col placed at or near the foot of the hill, well below, for instance, the 113-meter-high key col of Mont Blanc.
When the key col for a peak is close to the peak itself, prominence is easily computed by hand using a topographic map. However, when the key col is far away, or when one wants to calculate the prominence of many peaks at once, a computer is quite useful. Edward Earl has written a program called WinProm which can be used to make such calculations, based on a Digital Elevation Model. The underlying mathematical theory is called "Surface Network Modeling," and is closely related to Morse Theory. Andrew Kirmse extended this method to find every point on Earth with at least 100 feet of prominence.
A note about methodology: when using a topographic map to determine prominence, one often has to estimate the height of the key col (and sometimes, the height of the peak as well) based on the contour lines. Assume for simplicity that only the col elevation is uncertain. There are three simple choices. The pessimistic, or clean prominence, assumes that the col is as high as it can be, i.e., its elevation is that of the higher contour line nearest the saddle. This gives a lower bound on the possible prominence of the peak, ignoring map error; inaccuracies in mapping lead to further uncertainties and a larger error bound. Optimistic prominence assumes that the col is as low as possible, yielding an upper bound value for the prominence. Midrange or mean prominence uses the mean of these two values. Mean prominence is sometimes referred to as rise. In Britain, where topographic mapping is more detailed than in many countries, it is customary to use a fourth method: interpolated prominence. The true prominence is estimated by visualising the three dimensional surface in the neighborhood of the col and interpolating between the enclosing contours.
Which methodology is used depends on the person doing the calculation and on the use to which the prominence is put. For example, if one is making a list of all peaks with at least 2,000 ft (610 m) of prominence, one would use the optimistic prominence, to include all possible candidates (knowing that some of these could be dropped off the list by further, more accurate, measurements). If one wishes to present the most accurate data for the peaks, mean or interpolated prominence would be appropriate as the other measures give biased estimates.
There are two varieties of topographic prominence: wet prominence and dry prominence. Wet prominence is the standard topographic prominence discussed in this article. Wet prominence assumes that the surface of the earth includes all permanent water, snow, and ice features. Thus, the wet prominence of the highest summit of an ocean island or landmass is always equal to the summit's elevation.
Dry prominence, on the other hand, ignores water, snow, and ice features and assumes that the surface of the earth is defined by the solid bottom of those features. The dry prominence of a summit is equal to its wet prominence unless the summit is the highest point of a landmass or island, or its key col is covered by snow or ice. If its highest surface col is on water, snow, or ice, the dry prominence of that summit is equal to its wet prominence plus the depth of its highest submerged col.
The dry prominence of Mount Everest is, by convention, equal to its wet prominence (8848 m) plus the depth of the deepest hydrologic feature (the Challenger Deep at 10,911 m), or 19,761 m. The dry prominence of Mauna Kea is equal to its wet prominence (4205 m) plus the depth of its highest submerged col (about 5125 m), or about 9330 m, giving it the world's second greatest dry prominence after Mount Everest. The dry prominence of Aconcagua is equal to its wet prominence (6962 m) plus the depth of the highest submerged col of the Bering Strait (about 50 m), or about 7012 m.
Black Mountain is a mountain located in Washington County, New York, of which its peak is the highest point.
Isolated from the rest of the Adirondack Mountains by Lake George, Black Mtn. has the seventh highest topographic prominence of all the mountains in New York.
Black Mountain stands within the watershed of Lake Champlain, thence into Canada's Richelieu River, the Saint Lawrence River, and into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
The northwest and south sides of Black Mtn. drain into Lake George, thence into La Chute River, and Lake Champlain.
The northeast side of Black Mtn. drains into Pike Brook, thence into the South Bay of Lake Champlain.
Black Mountain is within New York's Adirondack Park.
On the top of Black Mountain is a weather station and wind turbine as well as a fire tower that is now out of commission and has been fenced off from the public.Dolores Peak
Dolores Peak is a high mountain summit in the San Miguel Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 13,296-foot (4,053 m) thirteener is located in the Lizard Head Wilderness, 16.7 miles (26.9 km) west-southwest (bearing 246°) of the Town of Telluride, Colorado, United States, on the drainage divide separating San Juan National Forest and Dolores County from Uncompahgre National Forest and San Miguel County.Ibapah Peak
Ibapah Peak is a 12,018-foot (3,663 m) summit in Juab County, Utah in the United States. It is the highest point of the Deep Creek Range and is located less than 5 miles (8.0 km) east of the Utah-Nevada border, and about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of the town of Trout Creek, Utah. With a topographic prominence of 5,247 feet (1,599 m) it is the fifth-most prominent summit in Utah.Kisimngiuqtuq Peak
Kisimngiuqtuq Peak is a mountain in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada. It is associated with the Baffin Mountains on Baffin Island. It is the tenth highest peak in Nunavut and the eleventh highest peak in Nunavut by topographic prominence.List of Alpine peaks by prominence
This is a list of the mountains of the Alps, ordered by their topographic prominence. For a list by height, see the list of mountains of the Alps. By descending to 1500m of prominence, this list includes all the Ultras of the Alps. Some famous peaks, such as the Matterhorn and Eiger, are not Ultras because they are connected to higher mountains by high cols and therefore do not achieve enough topographic prominence.
Where the prominence parent and the island parent differ, the prominence parent is marked with "1" and the island parent with "2" (with Mont Blanc abbreviated to MB). The column "Col height" denotes the lowest elevation to which one must descend from a peak in order to reach peaks with higher elevations; note that the elevation of any peak is the sum of its prominence and col. The column "Col location" denotes the pass where the col height is located. 'I think this table contains errors'List of Ultras of the Caribbean
The following sortable table comprises the seven ultra-prominent summits on the islands of the Caribbean Sea. Each of these peaks has at least 1500 meters (4921 feet) of topographic prominence. Five of these peaks rise on the island of Hispaniola and one each on Jamaica and Cuba.
Topographic elevation is the vertical distance above the reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface. The topographic prominence of a summit is the elevation difference between that summit and the highest or key col to a higher summit. The topographic isolation of a summit is the minimum great-circle distance to a point of equal elevation.
This article defines a significant summit as a summit with at least 100 meters (328.1 feet) of topographic prominence, and a major summit as a summit with at least 500 meters (1640 feet) of topographic prominence. An ultra-prominent summit is a summit with at least 1500 meters (4921 feet) of topographic prominence.
If an elevation or prominence is calculated as a range of values, the arithmetic mean is shown.List of mountain peaks of Hawaii
This article comprises three sortable tables of the 13 major mountain peaks of the Hawaiian Islands and the U.S. State of Hawaiʻi. Each of these 13 major summits has at least 500 meters (1640 feet) of topographic prominence.
The summit of a mountain or hill may be measured in three principal ways:
The topographic elevation of a summit measures the height of the summit above a geodetic sea level. The first table below ranks the 13 major summits of Hawaiʻi by topographic elevation.
The topographic prominence of a summit is a measure of how high the summit rises above its surroundings. The second table below ranks the 13 major summits of Hawaiʻi by topographic prominence.
The topographic isolation (or radius of dominance) of a summit measures how far the summit lies from its nearest point of equal elevation. The third table below ranks the 13 major summits of Hawaiʻi by topographic isolation.List of mountain peaks of Missouri
This article comprises three sortable tables of the significant mountain peaks of Missouri. This article defines a significant mountain peak as a summit with at least 100 meters (328.1 feet) of topographic prominence, and a major summit as a summit with at least 500 meters (1640 feet) of topographic prominence. All summits in this article have at least 100 meters of topographic prominence. An ultra-prominent summit is a summit with at least 1500 meters (4921 feet) of topographic prominence.
The summit of a mountain or hill may be measured in three principal ways:
The topographic elevation of a summit measures the height of the summit above a geodetic sea level. The first table below ranks the 20 highest summits of Missouri by elevation.
The topographic prominence of a summit is a measure of how high the summit rises above its surroundings. The second table below ranks the 20 most prominent summits of Missouri.
The topographic isolation (or radius of dominance) of a summit measures how far the summit lies from its nearest point of equal elevation. The third table below ranks the 50 most isolated major summits of Missouri.List of peaks by prominence
This is a list of mountain peaks ordered by their topographic prominence.Lists of mountains
Mountains are listed according to various criteria:
List of mountains by elevation
List of highest mountains greater than 7,200 metres (23,622 ft) above sea level
List of most prominent mountains
List of peaks by prominence
Summits farthest from the Earth's center
Lists of highest points restricted to a specific geographic area
List of countries by highest point
List of islands by highest point
Lists of mountains by region sorted by country or province
Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent
List of mountain types sorted by geological origin
List of mountain ranges organized into mountain rangesMcDonald Peak
McDonald Peak (9,820 feet (2,993 m)) is located in the U.S. state of Montana and is the highest peak in the Mission Mountains. McDonald Peak is situated within the Flathead Indian Reservation. The peak has the second greatest topographic prominence (after Crazy Peak) of all summits within Montana and is almost 80 miles (130 km) away from the next highest mountain in the state. McDonald Glacier is on the north slope of the peak.
During the summer the summit and surrounding area are inhabited by grizzly bears for the purpose of feeding on insects. Consequently, in the interests of conservation and safety, the area is closed to hikers between July 15 and September 30.Middle Peak (Colorado)
Middle Peak is a high and prominent mountain summit in the San Miguel Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 13,306-foot (4,056 m) peak is located in the Lizard Head Wilderness, 17.1 miles (27.6 km) west-southwest (bearing 250°) of the Town of Telluride, Colorado, United States, on the drainage divide separating San Juan National Forest and Dolores County from Uncompahgre National Forest and San Miguel County.Mount Marcus Baker
Mount Marcus Baker is the highest peak of the Chugach Mountains of Alaska.
It is located approximately 75 miles (121 km) east of Anchorage. This peak is very prominent because of its proximity to tidewater and is only 12 miles (19 km) north of the calving face of Harvard Glacier.
When ranked by topographic prominence, Mount Marcus Baker is one of the top 75 peaks in the world.Mount Odin
Mount Odin is a mountain in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada. It is located in Auyuittuq National Park along the Akshayuk Pass, 46 km (29 mi) north of Pangnirtung and south of Mount Asgard. Mount Odin is the highest mountain on Baffin Island.
Mount Odin is the highest mountain within the Baffin Mountains as well as the fifth-highest in the Arctic Cordillera. It has a topographic prominence of 2,147 m (7,044 ft), greater than any other mountain within the Baffin Mountains and on Baffin Island, making Odin the third-highest mountain in Nunavut by topographic prominence.
Comparing absolute peaks, Mount Odin is the fifth-highest in Nunavut. The higher points in Nunavut are: Barbeau Peak on Ellesmere Island (the highest point in Nunavut at 2,616 m), two unnamed peaks on Ellesmere Island, (one at 2,347 m located at 78° 48' N, 79° 34' W and one at
2,201 m located at 80° 17' N, 75° 05' W) and Outlook Peak on Axel Heiberg Island, which at 2210 m is just 63 m higher than Mount Odin.The mountain is named after Odin, the chief of the gods in Norse mythology and Norse paganism.Qiajivik Mountain
Qiajivik Mountain is a mountain in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada. Located in northeastern Baffin Island, it is part of the Baffin Mountains. At 1,965 m (6,447 ft) Qiajivik is the highest mountain in northern Baffin Island and with a topographic prominence of 1,787 m (5,863 ft) it is one of Canada's 142 ultra prominent peaks.Ribu
A ribu is a mountain that reaches a topographic prominence of at least 1,000 metres (3,281 ft). "Ribu" is an Indonesian word meaning "thousand".In Indonesia and Malaysia, three categories of ribus are known according to the absolute height of the peak. The "Sangat Tinggi" (Indonesian for "very high") category is for peaks higher than 3000 meters, "Tinggi Sedang" (Indonesian for "medium height") for peaks between 2000 and 3000 meters, and "Kurang Tinggi" (Indonesian for "less high") for peaks with an elevation of between 1000 and 2000 meters. Currently, a total of 270 Ribus are known across the Indonesian archipelago, including those in Malaysia and East Timor. Some are popular hikes, such as Mount Rinjani, Mount Semeru, and Mount Kerinci, while others are much more obscure, and some do not even have official names.
Some famous Indonesian mountains, such as Mount Bromo and Tangkuban Perahu, are not ribus because they are connected to higher peaks by high passes and therefore do not achieve enough topographic prominence. However, a subsidiary category of spesial (Indonesian for "special") peaks contains those deemed of such significant touristic interest that they merit inclusion, albeit subjectively, in a secondary list. At the moment, the Gunung Bagging website counts 115 Indonesian spesials.The list of the Indonesian ribus was compiled by Andy Dean and Daniel Patrick Quinn. As of October 2018, nobody is known to have completed the list.While the term "ribu" has been adopted to describe "mountains that exceed a prominence of 1000 meters" also outside Indonesia, the "spesial"-category remains acknowledged only there.Snøhetta
Snøhetta is the highest mountain in the Dovrefjell range, and the highest mountain in Norway outside the Jotunheimen range, making it the 24th highest peak in Norway, based on a 30-metre topographic prominence cutoff. Its topographic prominence is the third highest in Norway.
The mountain is inside Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park.
The mountain has several peaks:
Stortoppen, the highest summit, 2,286 meters.
Midttoppen, 2,278 meters, prominence 40 m
Hettpiggen, 2,261 meters, prominence 50 m
Vesttoppen, 2,253 meters, prominence 70 mVesttoppen and Stortoppen are easily available by hiking or skiing, and from Stortoppen Midttoppen is easily accessible. Traversing Midttoppen, via Hettpiggen and to Vesttoppen requires climbing with a rope.
On Stortoppen there is a radio link station, originally installed by the Norwegian Army, and now serving primarily civilian purposes. The station and its emergency diesel generator, as well as a nearby helipad, detract somewhat from the aesthetics of the summit. For this reason, many recommend Vesttoppen as a better destination.
A small monument for the Norwegian philosopher, humourist, author and mountaineer Peter Wessel Zapffe is located near the summit of Vesttoppen.
Under good conditions in both summer and winter, the ascent is relatively easy. Common starting points are the DNT-cabins Reinheim, Snøheim, or Åmotdalshytta.Stokes Mountain
Stokes Mountain is the highest mountain of the Stokes Range on Bathurst Island, Nunavut, Canada. It is also the highpoint on Bathrust Island and has a topographic prominence of 412 m (1,352 ft), greater than any other mountain in the Stokes Range.Ultra-prominent peak
An ultra-prominent peak, or Ultra for short, is a mountain summit with a topographic prominence of 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) or more; it is also called a P1500. There are approximately 1,524 such peaks on Earth. Some well-known peaks, such as the Matterhorn and Eiger, are not Ultras because they are connected to higher mountains by high cols and therefore do not achieve enough topographic prominence.
The term "Ultra" originated with earth scientist Stephen Fry, from his studies of the prominence of peaks in Washington in the 1980s. His original term was "ultra major mountain", referring to peaks with at least 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) of prominence.