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Discussion: Middlesex summits

in: CleverSky; CleverSky > 2020-08-03

Aug 4, 2020 9:32 PM # 
It appears to be pretty easy to summit all the ranked peaks in Middlesex county: there are only four with 300' prominence: Blood Hill, Nobscot Hill (on the edge of the o-map), Sligo Hill, and Prospect Hill (middle of o map). The high point, where you think you were, has a prominence of 10'. Here's the full list
Aug 4, 2020 9:47 PM # 
It's better than the high point of Connecticut, with a prominence of zero.
Aug 4, 2020 10:07 PM # 
That makes it especially hard to find, at least if there's nothing marking the state line.
Aug 5, 2020 12:27 AM # 
The CT one has a cairn on the side of the hill, and there's a trail along the state line. I didn't really research Middlesex before going, but as I suspected, there was a stone wall on the county line. It's also not the top of the hill.
Aug 5, 2020 4:55 PM # 
I'll have to do that hike/run one of these days. Apparently the trail ends at the NY line, so you can stand in three states at once.

Is your house in Middlesex or Worcester county? Worcester County has a much bigger list of ranked peaks, led by Wachusett and Watatic.
Aug 5, 2020 7:47 PM # 
Yeah, I think there's also a cairn at the tri-state point. There are maybe more trails than are shown on whatever map you're looking at, because I think there are trails leading east, west, and south from that cairn. I have a great map of the area that was drafted by Pat Dunlavey. The reason I went there is that it's very close to a hang gliding site (Brace Mountain), and I had some spare time one day. Brace has what it generally considered to be the most strenuous hike in of any site in the northeast, and most pilots are unwilling to fly there for that reason. Not such a concern for paragliders (much lighter), so that's mostly what you see there.

I'm in Worcester, but close to the line; the full Mystery Blazes trail run loop, starting from my house, crosses into Middlesex.

I need to think a bit about the meaning of "prominence". Seems like there are plenty of hills that ought to fare better than that chart shows, but I'm clearly failing to understand something.
Aug 5, 2020 8:30 PM # 
Prominence is the minimal descent necessary to get from the summit to a higher elevation. The reason prominence is sometimes less than expected (I think) is because the path with minimal descent doesn't have to be a straight line, and sometimes a winding path can get you to a higher elevation with less descent than any straight line.
Aug 5, 2020 9:43 PM # 
Well, take a look at Townsend Hill. Yeah, there's another spot nearby that's higher, but it appears to be unmarked, and it's what I'd consider to be the actual summit of Townsend Hill. And I think I can see a contour surrounding that that's 250 feet lower. But I may be making a mistake somewhere.
Aug 5, 2020 10:28 PM # 
You can get to the higher ground to the east (the summit near Warner Rd at 62x feet) from the point they label on the map "Townsend Hill" by only dropping between 10 and 20 feet, so that's the prominence of that point.

What I've found, however, is that when it comes to unranked peaks, it's pretty arbitrary which are included and what their names are. I'd be surprised if they missed a peak with 300' prominence (since I'm assuming it's done by some software program), but who knows. If you can get a contour at 32x feet or less to circle that peak (near Warner Rd), then you've found a peak that should have been ranked and was left out. I haven't looked closely.

At least, that's how I've been understanding these lists.
Aug 6, 2020 12:50 AM # 
Well, that's what I mean, it seems that the ranked peak should be that knoll to the east, right? And it would have much greater prominence. It seems like what they've done is the equivalent of saying that "Mt. Toby" is the knoll on the end of the spur leading south from the summit, and that it has a prominence of only 10 feet.
Aug 6, 2020 1:09 AM # 
Yeah, unless there is some practice they are following as to what to call "Townsend Hill", it seems a bit odd. Basically, around here, the unranked peaks they chose to name were the ones that had those names on local maps, etc. But there can be a lot of disagreement as to which peak is the named peak, and local maps sometimes differ.

A two minute look at the map suggests that even what you call "Townsend Hill" doesn't have a prominence of 300 feet (though it's close). For you can draw a path WNW to Baker Hill, which is higher, and never drops below 340 feet.
Aug 6, 2020 1:48 AM # 
Right, I didn't say 300, I said 250. But that was just the first hill that jumped out at me from the list, because 10 feet seemed really odd.
Aug 6, 2020 1:56 AM # 
The more I look at that chart, the weirder it gets. The "parents" in a number of cases make no sense to me.
Aug 6, 2020 2:01 AM # 
Of course, the only counting 300 feet prominence is also arbitrary. If I remember correctly, the way they count 4000 footers in the Whites is to require 400 feet prominence.
Aug 6, 2020 5:24 AM # 
Townsend Hill.
Aug 6, 2020 6:01 PM # 
Appalachian Mountain Club 4000-footer (and 100-highest) prominence requirement is 200 feet. They go by USGS maps; unlike some peak-bagging lists that are fixed at their original incarnation (Adirondack list is such a case, I think), they change the list if USGS changes. So for example there were several changes when 1:24,000 USGS maps replaced 1:62,500 in the White Mountains in the 1970s-1980s. Not sure how it works now that USGS is all digital. AMC have some rules, I forget exactly what, around what to do when the 200-foot prominence of a peak falls right in the ambiguous zone between two contour lines.
Aug 7, 2020 2:52 AM # 
Thanks Steve, I misremembered. I wonder how many 4000 footers would drop off if you raised the threshold to 300 or 400. With it digitized, I suspect it's no longer an issue getting prominences to the nearest whole number, though it may involve some serious computing power.
Aug 9, 2020 9:37 PM # 
Phil: the CT high point is actually quite a pretty spot, with a view back southeast to Bear Mtn (once thought to be the high point, and definitely the highest peak in CT). The easiest access is to park on Mt Washington Rd at the CT/MA state line, then follow the blazed trail west. It's worth continuing beyond the high point and beyond the CT/MA/NY tri-point (which does not mention CT on the marker) to get to the hang-gliding view point at Mt Brace.

Definitely worth the trip, especially in leaf season and in spring.

The whole area is gorgeous, and the South Taconic trail side is usually quieter than the Appalachian Trail side.
Aug 11, 2020 1:38 AM # 
Thanks Will. It's on my to-do list.
Aug 11, 2020 2:07 AM # 
It really is quite nice. If you go on a day with a westerly breeze, there might also be people flying. (Conversely, if you'd rather not see that, pick a day with a different wind direction.)

As of a few years ago, there were said to be rattlesnakes living in the cairn at the summit of Brace.

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