Friday, October 23, 2009

The Ultimate Tick List

At Rock & Ice, we once published a supplement called the Ultimate Tick List. We surveyed readers for their recommendations of the absolute best boulder problems and rock, ice, and alpine climbs in North America, and then compiled the answers into a list of 500 climbs to go at. As often happens in these surveys, the response rate wasn't as great as we'd have liked, and some geographic areas were woefully under-represented. We editors had to do some backing and filling, and mistakes were made. One climb was listed twice (under slightly different names), and somehow the short, slick, forgettable sport climb Deck Chairs on the Titanic at Table Mountain made it onto the list of the absolute best climbs in Colorado. But it was still a cool project, and readers seemed to like it. Climbers love hit lists.

Now, the excellent Mountain Project website has created a new method for generating tick lists. Using a secret algorithm that weighs star ratings and other factors, Mountain Project automatically generates a list of "The Classics" for each area it covers, whether that area is Boulder (3,201 routes in the database this morning) or the west face of the Bastille in Eldorado Canyon (20 routes). It's a slick gizmo, and it seems to work pretty well, though of course it's easy to quibble. Example: The Wasp, a 95-foot route on a small crag in Rocky Mountain National Park is picked as one of Colorado's most classic "alpine rock" routes. Really? Overall, though, Mountain Project has created a very useful tool.

I wondered if I could create a personal Ultimate Tick List by looking at Mountain Project's lists of classics at several areas where I've done a lot of climbing over the years. How many climbs would I have missed in the grades I usually climb, which top out at 5.11 on rock these days? Were there entire areas I should be moving to the top of my hit list? I looked at Eldorado Canyon in Colorado, Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire, the Moab area in Utah, Yosemite Valley, Colorado ice & mixed, and Colorado alpine rock.

Eldorado was a bust: I've already done all 20 routes on the classics list, though I'm sure I could find some hidden gems if I drilled down to the lists at individual crags or sectors. At Cathedral Ledge, I found only one climb I hadn't done, and it's a beauty: Camber, a two-pitch partly bolted route that didn't exist when I did most of my New Hampshire climbing, back in the ’80s. That's definitely worth putting on the list. I suppose I also should add the Prow, because I've only aid-climbed it. A free attempt certainly needs to be on my list. Liquid Sky (5.13b)? I don't think so. The list of 20 classics in the Moab area held two routes in Indian Creek Canyon I haven't done—nice to know about, but not worth a trip in their own right.

Yosemite Valley was more interesting. Midnight Lightning was out—I'll never get farther than fondling the starting holds on that one. But I realized I'd never done some moderate classics, like Nutcracker or Sons and Yesterday. And though I've done three El Cap routes, one of them is not the Nose. Hmmm.....

I was also surprised to see how many classic routes I still haven't done in Colorado's high mountains: the Little Bear-Blanca traverse, Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak, Ellingwood Ledges on Crestone Needle, Syke's Sickle on Spearhead, and Pervertical Sanctuary on the Diamond. Makes me wish winter weren't coming on so I could get after this list.

On the other hand, the richest lode of undone classics I found is just about to come into season. I was astonished to see that I had never climbed almost half the classic routes on the Colorado ice and mixed list. Most of these are in southwestern Colorado, a six-hour drive from home, but that's a pretty lame excuse. So here's my goal for the 2009-2010 ice season: Finish the list. I may have to find someone to drag me up the Talisman (WI6 M6), and one or two of these routes may never come into condition this year, but the winter is long and, for the moment at least, my motivation is high.

Mountain Project's Classics lists offer a great tool for planning visits to unfamiliar areas, and you may be surprised at what you learn about old familiar crags. However, I did notice that Deck Chairs on the Titanic made the list for Table Mountain. No system is perfect.

1 comment:

Sarah Gallagher said...

Great information! I had never heard of the mountain project before; thanks for sharing!