THE PEAKS AND LANDFORMS of
MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
written April 1996
Mount Rainier National Park (MRNP) is still (1996) largely a mystery to me. My native state's highest 14,410-foot summit has beckoned a couple of times, and I've made separate trips to Liberty Cap 14112 feet and Little Tahoma 11138 feet on Top 100 quests. But growing up in the North Cascades, Mount Rainier always seemed a long ways south, attracting climbers of a whole different mind set.
Landforms and Maps of Mount Rainier National Park
Over the years, my mountain interests have drifted south as the knowledge holes up north have been filling in, so now there's a new fascination with the state's symbol. For a while now, I'd thought of getting around to listing the Rainier-associated peaks, just to give myself a fresh set of climbing goals to work on. Then out of the blue, Fred Beavon lit a fire under my tail when he sent me his list of the "Named High Points in Mount Rainier National Park," a great tally of 118 summits.
That got me looking at the maps in earnest. I started writing down all the named mountainous landforms I could see (peaks, caps, mounts, mountains, cliffs, crests, walls, spires, bars, pinnacles, ranges, crests, ridges, "islands," divides, faces, prows, cleavers, rocks, benchmarks, points, vistas, divides, etc.), and their elevations. It takes 14 different 7.5-minute USGS Quads to cover the entire Park. The original eight 7.5-minute maps of the NW section are dated 1971. Along with the east border “provisional” maps, dated 1988, and the southern border maps, dated 1989, they all fit together like this:
It was a little hard to decide exactly what the elevations of some of the less distinct landforms were, since they often did not have a precise top. If the feature ended in a summit, it was given that height (e.g., Sunset Ridge and Liberty Ridge end at Liberty Cap, 14112'). If the cleaver, or cliff, or point petered out indistinctly on the map, the highest earth (as opposed to ice) elevation shown on the map was recorded.
Next it was obvious that there are a lot of minor peaks and features around Mount Rainier that have names on the maps, but that are not particularly prominent and distinct. This led to calculating the prominence of each of the landforms, as well as the current 7.5-minute USGS maps allow.
The "prominence" of a peak/landform is the difference (in feet) between the top of the peak and the low point on the highest ridge running to a higher point. This sounds simple enough to calculate, but the maps and methods are open to interpretation. There are at least four ways to calculate a peak's prominence. (See box.)
For the various "100 Highest Peaks" lists in Washington or other states or locales, I think it is preferable to adopt the "clean" (no argument) prominence method, that is, making the saddle as high as the map allows, and the peak as low as allowed, to make sure that a peak's prominence is never overstated.
However, for this exercise in the MRNP, the prominences are calculated by stating the peak elevation, and then making the saddle elevation the last contour elevation below the pass rather than above the pass. This was done primarily because little things like Tokaloo Spire and Beehive would work out to having only one-foot of prominence if the "clean" method was used.
To the three or four other "prominence purists" in the state, I apologize. To make your lives happy and "clean," simply subtract 40 feet (one contour interval) from the prominences shown on this list.
For many ridges and cleavers, a prominence of zero is given, only because these are more linear, slope-related, than peak-like landforms.
It is also worth noting that this list was a map-reading exercise. No doubt, field observations, past and future, will be able to fine-tune these rough prominence numbers, especially on the small-prominence points.
The prominence column may not make much sense or difference to many, whose eyes are now blurring over, but in reality, it highlights the significant separate peaks in the Park. If the summit stands 400 feet or more above all the nearby surrounding land, it generally "looks like a real mountain" when you are actually in view of it. There are 221 landforms identified on this list, but only 66 (less than 30%) qualify as significant by the 400-foot rule.
I enjoyed finding that at least 14 of these 400-foot rule peaks were "unknown" and unnamed on the current USGS maps, and not mentioned in the climber/hiker guides. Surely Rainierophiles or rangers have regarded them though.
Because many of the popular climbs in the Park have prominences of only 200 to 300 feet, this list was extended to include most of the 200+ foot prominence, unnamed points on the maps as well.
Summits in the park that had a precise elevation on the 1955 Mount Rainier National Park quad (1:62,500) often show only with an imprecise closed contour on the newer 7.5-minute (1:24,000) maps. Many peaks "lost" or "gained" a few feet of elevation from the 1955 map to the current maps.
What Native Washingtonian born before 1960 doesn't remember when Rainier was only 14,408 feet? We loved it when the USGS gave us another two feet, though they still don't accept the satellite inflation to 14,411.1 feet.
The unofficial names noted for most of the unnamed summits are taken from Fred Beckey 's Cascade Alpine Guide , or derived from a nearby feature. Some are the Indian name (Chinook jargon) equivalent of a nearby feature. Some of the unofficial names listed are only to give the author a name, instead of a number, to remember. No offense intended. Call them nothing, or call them what you want.
For example, "Kwass Kalakala" (fearful bird) means pigeon in Chinook jargon, and is next to Pigeon Peak . "Hyas Pishpish" (big cat), at the headwaters of Panther Creek, is Chinook for panther. "Hee Hee Chuck" means laughing water, and "Last Laugh Mountain" is the last peak on the ridge south of Laughing Water Creek. " Chinook Peak " is near Chinook Pass. "Yak PiLe" is a bump-peak just south of where (Yak)ima, (Pi)erce, and (Le) wis counties come together.
My eyes got a little bleary by the end of this project, so if you find any errors, omissions, or oversights, I'd like to hear about them. Finally, if anyone ever completes this list, please let me know. I'd like to shake your hand, and may offer to pay for your first psychotherapy session, or wish you a happy divorce.
|MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK|
|PEAKS AND LANDFORMS, NAMED AND UNNAMED|
|RANKED BY HEIGHT|
|John Roper, 4/10/1996|
|11560||+||St Andrews Rock||MRW||11400||160|
|11080||Lower St Andrews Rock"||MRW||10992||88|
|7828||Third Burroughs Mtn"||S||7400||428|
|7605||Cowlitz Chimneys, Main||CP||6600||1005|
|7421||Cowlitz Chimney, Central"||CP||7080||341|
|7402||Second Burroughs Mtn"||S||7000||402|
|7288||Goat Island Mtn||S^/MRE||6360||928|
|7200||+||Mt Fremont (per map name)||S||7080||120|
|7181||Mt Fremont Lookout||S||7120||61|
|7160||+||First Burroughs Mtn"||S||7106||54|
|7040||+||Sourdough Mtns=Palisades Pk||WRP||6400||640|
|7026||Sluiskin Mtn, The Chief||S||6080||946|
|7000||+||Dege Pk, West'||WRP||6760||240|
|6998||Crystal Mtn=Silver King"||WRP||4694||2304|
|6971||Tatoosh Range (HP=Unicorn)||TL^/WP/MRW||4840||2131|
|6960||+||Sluiskin Mtn, The Squaw"||S||6520||440|
|6840||+||Crystal Mountain (Ski)'||NP||6400||440|
|6800||+||Sluiskin Mtn, Papooses"||S||6600||200|
|6796||Three Way Peak"||NP||6520||276|
|6640||+||Cowlitz Chimney, NE'||CP||6400||240|
|6620||Slide Mtn, S Pk'||WRP||5920||700|
|6566||^||Barrier BM on Govnrs Ridge||WRP||6120||446|
|6375||Second Mother Mtn"||ML||5920||455|
|6360||+||Slide Mtn, N Pk'||WRP||6200||160|
|6336||^||Glacier Vista Benchmark||MRE||0|
|6120||Double Peak, NE Pk"||CP||5880||240|
|6040||+||Wahpenayo Pk, SE'||WPk||5800||240|
|5840||+||Grand Park Mtn'||S||5360||480|
|5804||Third Mother Mtn"||ML||5520||284|
|5556||Hee Hee Chuck'||CL||4800||756|
|5380||~||Rust Ridge (HP=Howard)||GL^/ML||5120||260|
|5299||Last Laugh Mtn'||OHS||4400||899|
|5280||+||Goat Island Rock||ML||0|
|5255||~||Alki Crest (HP=Tolmie)||GL||5200||55|
|5135||St Jacobs Point'||CP||4720||415|
|' Unofficial name, not on map|
|" Unofficial name in Cascade Alpine Guide, not on map|
|HP High Point|
|Peak elevation could be 39 feet higher|
|^ High Point is on this quad|
|~ Elevation shown is a mid-ridge point|
|USGS 7.5' Quad Abbreviations|
|CP Chinook Pass||NP Norse Peak|
|CL Cougar Lake||OHS Ohanapecosh Hot Springs|
|GL Golden Lakes||S Sunrise|
|MRE Mount Rainier East||TL Tatoosh Lakes|
|MRW Mount Rainier West||WPk Wahpenayo Peak|
|MW Mount Wow||WPs White Pass|
|ML Mowich Lake||WRP White River Park|
Ways to Calculate Prominence
As an exercise, let's try to figure the prominence of a theoretical peak that shows as the 7000-foot contour, where the pass/saddle that connects it to the next higher peak shows as the 6000+ foot contour, by the various ways:
1) "Clean Prominence Way" (or Pmin) = 960 feet
Dictum : Let no one dispute that this peak qualifies for this prominence level.
Therefore, make the peak as low as the map allows, and make the saddle/pass to the next higher peak as high as the map allows, by using the first contour elevation above the pass.
For example, a 7000+ foot contour peak remains 7000 feet and the 6000+ pass would be figured at 6000' + 40'= 6040', for a prominence of 960 feet.
2) "Best Possible Prominence Way" (or Pmax) = 1040 feet
Dictum : Make the peak's prominence look as good as possible.
Make the peak as high as possible, and make the pass/saddle as low as the map allows.
For example, a 7000+ foot contour peak could be as high as 7039.9+ feet on a 40-foot contour map, and the 6000+ foot pass could be as low as 6000 feet, so the best prominence possible is ~1040 feet.
3) "Call a Spade a Spade Way" = 1000 feet.
Dictum : Whatever the map "says" the elevation of the peak and the pass is, is.
For example: A 7000+ foot contour peak = 7000', and a 6000+ foot contour pass = 6000', so the prominence is 1000 feet.
4) "Split the Difference Way" (or Paverage) = 1000 feet.
Dictum : Add 20 feet (1/2 of a 40 foot contour) to the peak, and add 20 feet to the pass before the subtraction.
For example: A 7000+ foot contour peak = 7020' (+/- 20 feet), and a 6000+ foot contour pass = 6020' (+/- 20 feet), for a prominence of 1000 feet.