God-speed: ..."an expression of goodwill when addressing someone, typically about to start a journey or daring endeavour"...seems like the appropriate wish for Suzie Imber, Max Kausch, and Pedro Hauck as they head off on an incredible adventure; to climb as many previously unclimbed 6000m peaks in the Andes as they can conquer in the next two months. Godspeed, my precious friend and climbing partner. Stay safe and have an awesome time!
Quote August 2015 Jane MacEwen Barton
Nameless Peaks of the Andes
The project began several years ago when Max began his mission to climb all mountains in the Andes over 6000 metres. He has now climbed 72 of these mountains, but the question arose, how many independent 6000+ metre mountains are there in the Andes?
Previous lists had used paper maps to identify mountains, however this method is time-consuming, and inaccurate. Max and Suzie were kindly given permission to use the super-computer at the University of Leicester, and provided with the latest digital elevation model of the Andes. Even the best data that is available has voids and gaps so that the resolution is poor in places. Despite this, the entire mountain range comprises 1.6 billion data points, and this dataset requires powerful computing facilities to handle.
The traditional method used to identify whether a mountain is independent, or a sub-peak of its father, is to use the prominence. This involves finding the ‘key col’, which is the highest col connecting the mountain of interest, to any higher mountain. The higher mountain is known as the father. The prominence is then the difference between the mountain height, and the key col altitude, and the threshold most commonly used is 300 metres.
Mountain Dominance Threshold
This method has some flaws however. It applies the same altitude threshold to mountains in the UK or Europe, to those in the Himalayas. It stands to reason that the measure used should scale with the altitude of the peak, so in our work we have instead used the dominance, which is the prominence divided by the height of the mountain of interest, then multiplied by 100 to get a percentage. This then scales with mountain altitude, and the most commonly used dominance threshold is 7%.
Suzie and Max spent many hours writing computer code to analyse their Andean altitude data, and generated the first ever complete, accurate and objective list of Andean mountains over 6000 metres. The task was further complicated by the fact that the data set cannot be split into small pieces and analysed, as it turns out that location of the key col (and the father mountain) could be a very long way from the peak we’re interested in.
1,123 Mountains Over 5000m
Having calculated our mountain list (and given Max an idea of exactly which mountains he needs to climb to complete his goal), Max and Suzie then moved on to the 5000+ mountains in the Andes. They found 1123 independent 5000 metre mountains, many of which did not appear to have a name, or (as far as we know) to have been climbed in recent history. Having said this, it is well-known that the Incas were prodigious mountaineers, and many Incan ruins and artifacts have been found in the high Andes.
BMC & Mount Everest Funded
Suzie then wrote several grant proposals to fund an expedition to climb some of these mountains, and received funding from the Mount Everest Foundation, and the British Mountaineering Council to launch an expedition in September and October of 2015 with a goal of climbing 20 mountains in the most remote regions of the Andes. Max and Suzie will be joined on this expedition by Pedro Hauck, who has climbed 32 6000+ metre mountains in the Andes, and his Landrover, Conway.
Link To Sponsors 2015
Mount Everest Foundation