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Criteria for allocating summits points?


And yet we do. Repeatedly, ad nauseum! It is a SOTA tradition, dug up again every year like a dog with a much-treasured bone!

Just suppose that some genius comes along with a beautifully elegant solution to the problem, a solution so beautiful that we decide we really must use it. What then?

106,243 summits have their scores changed once it is determined how the solution applies to them by individual inspection.

222,040 activations (as of this moment) to be re-scored, with the scores of 5,558 activators changed.

4,118,058 chaser scores (as of this moment) to be changed, affecting the total scores of 5,831 chasers.

That is just the, shall we say mechanical aspect of the change. This would be followed by the psychological aspect. There would naturally be winners and losers. The losers would be very vocal in their disapproval - “I’ve dropped from second to sixth place overnight, WAAH!” Dummies would be spit in all directions, rattles hitting the floor. Think I’m exaggerating? We eliminated a lot of non-complient summits from one Association, got a heck of a lot of bad tempered comment and the number of participants in that Association dropped by a third for a few years before gradually recovering. These things matter to people.

Better to accept that SOTA is imperfect.


…or realise that it is, in fact, already perfect :wink:


The flip side of that is to go for the more difficult to access summits, many of which provide just 1 or 2 points. Personally I get more out of researching, planning and executing a three hour walk into a summit to achieve just a single point than I do out of many higher point summits with easy access. Add a dose of horizontal sleet or lying snow up to your backside and the endorphin level is enhanced considerably. :wink:


"both fail to measure truly the difficulty"
I agree with you Simon, “truly” is the key here. Nothing is perfect, and what is perfect for one person may not be for another. If we agree that nothing is perfect including SOTA itself (even though it improves constantly) then asking that a difficulty scale be perfect from the beginning when such a hurdle is not required nor achievable by anything else seems a bit odd.

"raise a barrier to adding summits to the program through the extra burden of measurement/calculation"
It is true for some approaches not for others actually. Some are add-ons to the existing point system that do not disturb the existing banding system and the onus is not on the AM but on the activators themselves.

Some feel exasperated talking about this, I actually find it a very interesting topic. I am happy to be SOTA’s “Poil a grater” :wink:



"ad nauseum!"
Pass the bucket! Brian, you never get tired of saying how tired of talking about this you are. :slight_smile:

“106,243 summits have their scores changed”
“222,040 activations (as of this moment) to be re-scored, with the scores of 5,558 activators changed”
"4,118,058 chaser scores (as of this moment) to be changed, affecting the total scores of 5,831 chasers"
Why replace what works with the existing point system? Most people agree with this. Elegant solutions that are add-ons in terms of points and not replacements have been proposed. Just another set of awards like you get for S2S or Uniques, etc… You decide to participate or not.

"The losers would be very vocal in their disapproval"
I can imagine, this has to be very thankless and challenging at times for the MT to deal with.

"I’ve dropped from second to sixth place overnight, WAAH!"
I thought SOTA was not a competitive activity, haha

"Better to accept that SOTA is imperfect"
Better accept that a difficulty scale would not be perfect either, SOTA did go into existence though :slight_smile:

SOTA’s Poil-a-gratter


The only perfect things in this world are our wives, everybody knows that!


Not so! I enjoy every reincarnation of the topic, in the (usually vain) hope that someone will come up with a fresh insight!


A perfect system is unobtainable. But is it at least excellent?

In March of 1788, Alexander Hamilton addressed his constituents in print to explain a compromise that had been reached between various competing interests. The highlight of that address being “… if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”

The system formed by that compromise remains basically unchanged 229 years later. The merits of the system are still routinely debated by those who at various times are unsatisfied with a result it has produced. Others are equally unsatisfied with proposed changes, so the system lives on. I expect it will be with us as is for a long time. I expect the same for SOTA.


Rather than expect someone to produce the data for 100k+ summits what will be much simpler is to let the database randomly generate bonus scores for those who think their effort is worthy of more reward than others. This may be because you did indeed scale a cliff face or took a long and arduous route. Or maybe you decided that walking was too easy and used a pogo-stick or Space Hopper and bounced to the summit.

So an activator will login and then can view the standard honour rolls based on the current data and then be able to click the button marked “L’Oreal” (because you are worth it) and this will add sufficient points that they appear top of the honour roll.


I like the space hopper idea :smile:

Bouncing forward, though, perhaps we should be looking to technology.

It would, I think, be practical for the activator to carry a device which monitored heart beat, distance traveled, height gained, level of chafing from space hopper etc.

This data could be uploaded in real time, or later. A handicap system could be applied to account for age, quantity of lard carried etc. Points could be awarded accordingly. What do points mean??

This would involve no work at all for the summit team.

Or, we could just enjoy getting out there and playing radio :smile:



Well yes it’s because the concept of a measure of “difficulty” for a summit is not exclusively connected to the summit yet this gets raked over and over rather too frequently.

What do I mean?

Well consider the recent topic about activating Tryfan where some might find even the normal route a bit exposed/scrambly and at the limit of their own perception of the difficulties. Others might not and would think the route via the Heather Terrace and then Grooved Arete is actually “difficult” but doable whereas the other is “easy” and they would quite happily take that route despite the technical hurdles/exposure etc.

On the other hand there might be a peak with absolutely no technical difficulty in reaching the summit BUT is 25km hike in and out from the nearest road. I would prefer to take the peak with the exposure rather than the huge hike in and out as I think the longer walk is more difficult… but others will not.

Therefore the concept of “difficulty” (and thus potential points variation) is intimately connected with the individual and their view of the circumstances and NOT some fixed parameter (with a complicated algorithm) that is applied to each summit.

(Inserts tongue into cheek) I am sure Andy would be perfectly happy to come up with a questionnaire that profiles the risk aversion (or not) of different circumstances for every single activator. This can then be factored into the algorithm derived from the summit difficulty rating and this will then generate the “correct” points for the summit when activated by that person.

After all Andy needs something to do in the afternoons… :slight_smile:

Or on the other hand, let’s just leave as it is because it works!

73 Marc G0AZS

PS For the avoidance of doubt, I do not support any change whatsoever and my post above was meant to illustrate that it would be incredibly difficult to consider this and hence far less valuable work compared to other worthy activities such as introducing new Associations etc


Hi Marc,

Although my post was tongue in cheek, the underlying logic agrees with yours, I think.

If we want a measure of effort, or difficulty, we should be measuring the activator rather than the mountain.

My own view, though, is leave it as it is, as you suggest.



Well I did a near 20 mile hike last week that took me 13 hours (including lunch, pub and dinner stops) and I was absolutely exhausted at the end of it. You’d think that would be worth lots of extra points wouldn’t you, but alas no points at all, because my route did not take in a SOTA summit. Now in the same way that areas of the world with hardly any SOTA summits get a rather generous minimum prominence requirement and often an arguably inflated set of points bandings, then I feel such a long walk as mine should attract a compensatory block of points (I suggest 250) in respect of the non-availability on SOTA summits en route. After all, it only takes me 8 minutes to walk up The Cloud G/SP-015, so the fact that there isn’t a single SOTA summit on a 20 mile route is frankly ridiculous and utterly unacceptable.


Right on… the perfect case for variable prominence rules that should be applied to ensure equally spaced summits along a path. Now we are getting somewhere… :slight_smile:


Call it “vert” i/o “difficulty” and have activators upload their GPS track into sotamaps to calculate it. Done.
This way Andy can spend his retirement enjoying some activating instead on changing 100k summits in the DB.
Oh but wait, this is not “perfect”! ah yes, I forgot only perfection will be accepted :wink:

I can’t resist a good old round of tongue-in-cheek-ness, here’s my paltry attempt:
In order to make sure there SOTA is a “safe space” where nobody feels “triggered”, let’s make all the summits 10 points, delete the database so that we do not get to see those unsightly league tables where some dare have more points than others. Oh no, wait, I have a better idea, let’s give everybody a fixed score of 10,000 points that will not change so that everybody stays equal. No more DB work involved unless we go to P10 to make summits accessible to everybody of course. Everybody will be equals! :grin:


If you are venturing into the mountains then you have already reduced your safety, so I would suggest a bonus of three points if you need to put hand to rock, and if you need to rope up for the ascent then this should attract an additional bonus equal to the UIAA grade of the climb (translated from those pesky Roman numerals, of course.) If you decide to dispense with the rope then the UIAA bonus should be doubled. If while attempting to earn the doubled UIAA bonus you slip and fall, making it necessary for the MRS to retrieve the corpse, then a special “Termination Bonus” of 1000 points will be awarded.


I was quoting you, so no need to make a big deal out of the word perfect!

The difficulties as I see them:

  • There is no consensus on what makes a summit “difficult” - c.f. Marc’s post

  • It is not possible to distil the various levels of difficulty, depending on e.g. start point, into a single score for a summit. Adding the complexity of multiple possible scores for a summit is not something we’d want to do.

  • Introducing an add-on points scheme (e.g. measure litres of sweat lost!) is something people could do individually for themselves (whatever floats your boat!) but seems pretty pointless for the programme as a whole

  • Any of the proposed systems would entail an inordinate amount of work (note that only basic summit information is stored in the database) considering any resulting benefit

  • Is there any point anyway?




Was not making a “big deal” fyi.
All your points make sense actually.

So Simon, you are ok with an imperfect system on what defines a summit? Why P100 vs P150, or why a “Low” banding vs a “normal” banding? On the other hand you are not ok with an imperfect system that defines difficulty (such as vert via GPS tracks for example)?

There is no right or wrong answer to this just curious, everybody will have a different opinion.

The point is there is no point but to enjoy yourself. Some people enjoy themselves by looking at how many Uniques they activate, other by looking at how many points away rom MG they and others by how many meters of vert they rack-up when activating summits. I am sure some even activate summits to enjoy “being the DX” and do not even log them into the SOTA database. To each their own.



The definition of a summit is perfect actually, in the sense that it is a topological definition. A summit either meets the prominence criterion or it doesn’t. We have practical difficulties to contend with on top of that (imperfect topo data) but the definition of a summit itself is according to a simple, objective, measurable parameter.

Yes, you could measure things for your own ascents too, like I said sweat, or your vertical ascent from GPS, or even the number of heart beats it takes if you like, but those are all variable between activators and their activations, not something that can be assigned to a summit without additional criteria. The elevation, on the other hand, is a simple measurable parameter which is usually the same for each ascent!