Each of the 50 U.S. states has a high point of elevation, be it a towering mountain peak or a nondescript knoll in a cornfield. To a small group of climbers who call themselves highpointers, every one of these summits is geographically significant.
The goal is to climb all 50 high points in a lifetime. To date, according to Highpointers.org, only 125 people have done it. But many more are trying, and two companies have jumped into the sport with products that cater specifically to the highpointing crowd.
Silva’s 50 High Peaks package ($40, www.silvacompass.com) includes a Silva Explorer compass and mapping software from Maptech. A Windows-compatible CD-ROM contains detailed topographic maps of each of the highest peaks in all 50 states.
The maps come in both 1:24,000 and 1:100,000 scales, and Maptech has a 3D mode that simulates the mountain topography onscreen. You can zoom in, rotate, annotate and print the maps to take along for the climb. There are also features to let you load map data onto a GPS device.
I found the software helpful on a recent climb of California’s Mt. Whitney. The 3D mode is especially handy for visualizing your climb. However, there are no climbing routes loaded into the maps, so I had to buy an additional guidebook on Mt. Whitney to get the more specific route information of the climb.
“Highpoint Adventures” ($16, www.mountaineersbooks.org), a highpointing guidebook by authors Charlie and Diane Winger, includes brief descriptions of each of the 50 state summits. There are basic maps and pictures of each climb, as well as concise route descriptions.
Overall, the book is a good introduction to highpointing, and the included driving directions and trail maps are all you’ll need for about 70 percent of the high points. For the remaining mountains — peaks like Washington’s Mt. Rainier, California’s Mt. Whitney, and Alaska’s Denali — the book’s descriptions work better as overviews. Serious mountaineers will definitely need to supplement “Highpoint Adventures” with mountain-specific guidebooks that go into every bit of detail on climbing from base camp to the summit.