Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mountain Trivia You Won't Believe

Here's a question, the answer to which will amaze, win bets, and generally provoke serious disbelief.

The question revolves around cities with big mountains close by. I wanted to know where you get the biggest vertical going from a city to a close mountain. So I asked the following question:

Of all the significant cities in the U.S., which one has the highest vertical rise from the city to a mountain within, say, 15 miles?

I imagine that most people will think like I did, first considering those iconic mountains associated with iconic cities. Seattle and Mt. Rainier, for instance. There is a huge vertical rise of 14,226 feet from Seattle to Mt. Rainier. But of course Rainier is, at 60 miles away from Seattle, much farther than my arbitrary distance in the question.

Tacoma is much closer to Rainier, but still 40 miles away.

What about Redding, California and Mt. Shasta? They have nearly as much vertical difference of 13,685 feet of rise. But again, Shasta is about 60 miles from Redding.

Okay, let's look at Portland Oregon. Mt. Hood stands a very tall 11,200 feet higher than Portland. And it is closer than the above examples, but still about 50 miles away.

Mt. Baker rises high above Everett, Washington, but it too is more than 50 miles away.

And so it goes for the mountains near Denver, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Salt Lake City, Utah. All have high mountains nearby, but those three cities themselves sit thousands of feet in the air, reducing the vertical rise.

Close to Tahoe, we can measure from Reno at 4400 feet up to Mt. Rose at 10785. The vertical gain is less than 6400 feet and the distance is 20 miles away, still beyond the parameter of my question.

What about Las Vegas, which has Charleston Peak? At respective elevations of 2030 for Vegas and 11,916 for Charleston Peak, the vertical rise is an impressive 9886. Yet Charleston peak, while close, is also about 20 miles away.

So what is the winner? The cities of California's Inland Empire, a large exurbia that lies just east of Los Angeles. Ontario and Pomona are two of the main ones, both with populations over 150,000. And just 15 miles away is Mount San Antonio, otherwise known as Mt. Baldy. The two cities sit at 1000 feet of elevation and Baldy is 10,068 feet. So there is 9000 feet of vertical rise.

Los Angeles is thought of for its movie industry and its beaches and its freeway traffic.
But with mountains looming 10,000 feet above, it has some of the most amazing mountain views anywhere.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Wait, we're not done, yet. Especially, if you think about cities just a bit smaller.

For example, consider Palm Springs, CA. Its population is 46,000. That's not a major city by most standards. However, if you add in Palm Desert, the city next door, which has 50,500 people, you've got a sizable number of people. Does Palm Springs have a mountain? Yes, right up against it, in fact. San Jacinto Peak is only 10 miles away and its summit is 10,834 feet, almost exactly the same as Tahoe's highest mountain, Freel Peak. But the elevation of Palm Springs is only 479 feet. So San Jacinto Peak towers 10,355 feet above the city. At just 10 miles away, that is the most dramatic mountain/city relationship that I know of in the country.

San Jacinto Peak towers 10,355 feet above Palm Springs and Palm Desert, the
most dramatic mountain/city relationship in the country. Not only that, but Jacinto's
north face is one of the tallest faces of any mountain in the U.S.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
So the next time you think about big mountains near cities, remember that there is no place in the Cascades or the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada that puts big mountains near cities like in Southern California. We usually think of SoCal as beaches and Hollywood and crowded freeways. But SoCal is also mountain paradise.

No comments:

Post a Comment