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Scoring, the 2017 edition... (started in "Split of the French "F" SOTA Association")


Hi Gerald, I have actually the same approach as you. SOTA has pushed me to discover new summits that I would not have climbed otherwise and I thouroughly enjoy this discovery process. The vast majority of the summits I do are unique ones as well for me.

The funny thing is that I am not a competitive point chaser and keener to discover new areas as well. I still have an opinion on the point system though and I am happy to discuss it.

I understand though that some will think “Not again!” but when I see some of the point differences accross associations I think this a worthy topic even if it has to be re-hashed a 1000 times over.


As you have yet to propose a scoring method I specifically exclude you from this observation Arnaud.

In my experience, every time somebody suggests a “better” scoring system then the one person who is guaranteed to benefit from the better scoring system is the proposer. I’ve never seen anyone suggest a scheme where they personally will be getting lower scores.


Assuming I ever came-up with a proposal that gets accepted, if it generates a negative impact I’d be happy to keep it and would equally be happy to remove any positive impact in order to remove the potential for personal bias.

If I was devilish I would be thinking that the creation of some new Associations may be for the same purpose. Thankfully I only see the good in people.


Well I like the idea.

Sometimes I walk up G/SP-015 from the car park just below, 8 minutes walk away. I get 1 point for this, which is fine. But occasionally I walk to it from the canal at Bosley a couple of miles away. This has got to be worth 4 points. Once I walked to it from my home in Macclesfield, and back again the next day. I would like 100 points for that.

Of course, points are only awarded for one activation per calendar year, so we need to introduce a feature for the activator to nominate their best-scoring ascent if done more than once.


How about everyone sets up a “better” system of scoring for themselves and KEEPS it to themselves!
After all you are the only one it will mean anything to.
I often think of doing this as i am dragging my rearend up some slope.
I keep the current SOTA scoring system and have “my” system on the side to stroke the ego.
This is what I am going to do if the management team gives up after beating their collective heads against the rocks trying to remain polite and firm.
I want that GOAT and even if the program folds up and blows away I will continue on using the current scoring system till I die or get it.


Steve, you scored over 250 climber points in the last six months, including harsh Colorado conditions. Pretty nice.

Elliott, K6EL
Sota MT


I put this thread down to the poor band conditions and the dearth of activations in the northern hemisphere winter. Activity drops off and introspection sets in.

When we get tired of yet another reincarnation of examining the entrails of the points system, perhaps we can resuscitate that other hoary old chestnut, the P100/P150 controversy!

Or perhaps I’m just feeling mischievous while the floodlight in the car park beyond my garden fence is performing its nightly task of blotting out the bands!


quote=“G8ADD, post:27, topic:14585”]


"When we get tired of yet another reincarnation of examining the entrails of the points system, perhaps we can resuscitate that other hoary old chestnut, the P100/P150 controversy!"

Speaking of which… N6JZT just now emailed me proposing a P100 in Iowa, the last hoary old State in the US with qualifying summits (two of them) and no association to date. Looks like I need to search for an AM.

Elliott, K6EL
Sota MT


I could come & see you and put a well aimed jacketed round in the necessary place.
Would you come & see me when they lock me up? :smiling_imp:


I was thinking more of a Landrover with a wench - sorry, winch!


Well, I saw above that some people keep their own scoring while others think that it is too much work to change the scoring.

We have points for S2S, complete, etc, why not for difficulty?
If you have a low summit ASL-wise with a decent amount of vert then you could still get 10 points regardless of the fact that you have Mont Blanc in your country.

I guess the fundamental question here is what does the MT want to achieve with the current point system within SOTA? Rewarding Difficulty, something else? I may have missed it but I did not see it in the General Rules. It just says that the point system is based on ASL but it does not say what the intention of that point system is.

If it is not trying to reward difficulty then your show, your rules and move on or leave basically.
If it is trying to achieve difficulty then clearly something needs to be changed.

FL/VO-001, Le Grand Ballon de Guebwiller - 1424m, 10 Points
300m from the road 90m of vert

Then you drive 1Km and you have:
FL/VO-078, Le Storkenkopf - 1366m, 10 Points
300m from the road 130m of vert.

You also have summits in the Alps that have similar characteristics:
F/AM-144, Cîme de la Bonette - 2860m, 10 Points
The access road is at 2,800m for about 60m of vert.

We have a point system that is not perfect but works well with clear rules. Now, if we are trying to reward difficulty with the point system and we know that it is not perfect with F/AM-144 for example why make it worse by creating a “L” association that will give 10 points for quasi drive ons?

When you think about the multitude of summits in the Alps that require massive amounts of vert, sometimes multi-day trips and potentially some technical ice and/or rock-climbing skills at high altitude and get 10 points just the same as a freshly minted quasi drive-on in the “L” association then the difficulty scale seems a bit odd don’t you think?

If the points scale is not supposed to represent difficulty then I’ll stay forever quiet and move on.

I know I am “urinating” against the wind on this one. The title of the thread is already condescending “the 2017 edition”, many people benefit from these “L” associations and many people have invested immense amounts of work (a big thanks to them) in the current point system and do not want to see it change. I understand all of them.

Personally I will still go out and enjoy SOTA just the same that I have in the past, discovering new summits, making QSOs, enjoying the outdoors. I will do this and enjoy it regardless of the number of points allocated to the summits.

Doing that though I still point out that we can improve on the current system.
Yes it would be a lot of work.
Yes it would upset a lot of people for various reasons.

The problem I have is that I am seeing these imperfections amplified instead of reduced under the creation of these “L” associations.

If the point system is meant to facilitate activations for activators then let’s move to P10 and give every summit 10 points! (tongue firmly in cheek).

I am over and out. Done banging my head against a brickwall (like others in the past). I will let another torch bearer antagonise the rest of the SOTA community trying to fix a problem in the “2018 edition”.



Hi Arnaud,

Sorry you feel that way - I don’t think your proposals are necessarily bad or unwanted, but maybe need to be tested on smaller area first, rather than all SOTA. Try taking the TK region of JA, or perhaps KN and try a few examples and see what works and doesn’t. Run the system manually for a little bit to see how it goes.

The points system of course has never taken difficulty into consideration, nor is there likely to be a huge amount of appetite to rescore or change the existing points scheme. I have thought of a potential altitude bonus for activations above 5,000m, a real possibility in some of the associations being planned. But by and large, the points scheme will probably want to stay the points scheme and only loosely proxy difficulty by ASL

However, if you can come up with a parallel scoring system that is easy, repeatable and minimal overhead, like the S2S scheme, you can certainly propose it as a new award. I’m guessing there are many challenges you’ll face along the way, but if you can demonstrate and explain the implementation and give examples, we will look at it.

It’s just no one has been able to do so yet that is easy, repeatable or minimal effort.


Hi Andrew,

Thank you for keeping an open mind.
If you are willing to look at it, I am happy to work on it.
First I could propose a few schemes past you and the MT and then apply it on a test basis.
Then we could draw conclusions based on the test runs.
I am happy to fail trying. Not even trying on the other hand disturbs me for some odd reason.
I think this point system (assuming it works) could be a fun adjunct to the existing.
I propose to do the work on the test run(s) and you and the MT be the judges.
I think you are right, it is going to take quite a bit of work with roadblocks along the way but I am happy to put in the time and effort. I also agree on the KIS (Keep It Simple) replicable approach. It worked for the existing ASL approach so it should work for other schemes.

5,000m+… wow I am already guessing what Association that could be.

If you want to discuss further with the MT before getting back to me and they’re ok with it then we can take it offline.



You might want to think about how the new scheme would apply to unclimbed Alaskan peaks in roadless areas.



Thanks for the input Wunder, I will try to think about something that can be applied with flexibility to different types of terrain.



Arnaud, I think you should think of the “easy” summits with road or cable car/railway/ski lift access as part of our philosophy of making the award accessible to the aged and handicapped hams amongst us. These anomalously easy summits are a small proportion of our total inventory of summits so they will have relatively little effect on the score of our more fit and active participants, but for some people these are the only summits that they can attempt. As we have answered on other occasions when the matter has been brought up, we are content to leave people with some summits fit for an easy day or suitable for wheelchair access - we all may need them some day to get a flavour of the mountains that we romped up in our youth!

Difficulty as such is not a fixed property for any summit, it is as much a property of the conditions at any moment as it is of the morphology that affects our progress. At the one extreme you can have a day when every surface is verneered with thin black ice - verglass - on another day the weather can be so hot that it becomes a struggle to go on, or on another day you might be struggling against powerful winds. Then again, it is going to vary from person to person - I’m sure most of us have experienced the momentary humiliation of struggling up a steep slope only to be overtaken by a fell runner!

To be sure, you could devise a grading system for the physical aspects of a summit but you need to be aware that this grade will be specific to one route to that summit. If I can give an instance, take Snowdon, GW/NW-001. This mountain is a tourist magnet. If I have remembered them all, there are no less than eight named routes to the summit, plus a mountain railway to a restaurant on the edge of the AZ. In addition there are a couple of unnamed routes which you could use linking the summit with adjacent SOTA summits, several well known scramblers routes and a plethora of climbers routes. The easiest named route follows the railway track for most of the way, the hardest is a scramble with a degree of exposure that would terrify some people

All this boils down to the statement that difficulty is a property of the route chosen and the ever changing weather.

What, then, are the points actually measuring? They measure the proportion of height relative to the greatest height attainable in any one Association. As such they are a generalised indication of the amount of time and effort that would be expended on reaching the summits in that Association. A property of all the summits in any given height band rather than an individual summit. Thus although there may be summits with road access and other summits that may need the skills and equipment of a rock climber, this won’t affect the overall time and effort of a height band.

Look at the extremes of possibility in grading systems. Your concept of grading according to physical difficulty applied to Alaska Anchorage KLA means that 10,440 summits have to be individually graded, presumably by applying pre-determined parameters to every feasible route up each summit, and at the other extreme the current system of batch grading by inspection of a histogram of heights…or possibly an even simpler system where every summit gets a single point so that your score is the total number of summits that you have done. Our chosen system is a compromise chosen for ease of application while carrying more information than a simple count.

I can well understand your problem with our system - it infuriated me when I first encountered SOTA, until I applied a lot of thought to possible alternatives and realised how the system cuts through a maze of difficulties with a simplicity that is almost elegant. You might be able to come up with something better - by all means, try! - but test it against a range of Associations before proposing it. Say, PA, KLA and UT to cover a range of topographic styles.



Hi Brian,

Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful reply.

I have to admit that I had not thought about the idea of making some summits easier to access for people with less abilities such as people in wheelchairs. So from that standpoint I think you make great argument here. On the flip side, I think that when looking at those easier summits with high points empirical evidence seems to suggest that they are most frequented by people atop the league tables. I have nothing against people chasing points on easy summits who are competing with each other, I think everybody should find something they like in SOTA, be it point collection, discovery of new summits, etc… I think that looking at F/AM-144 should convince you. I know most of the activators on that list and I can tell you they are very fit :slight_smile: Given I am picking only one example here I cannot generalize my argument to all summits but I think it is fairly compelling.

I fully agree with you that difficulty is not a fixed property when looking at summits and you choose great examples. I think that we could agree that the difficulty of a summit can be then divided into 2 types of factors: fixed and variable. No scale will ever be able to fully take into account the variable factors, be it an ASL scale or any other scale. Trying to do so may even have adverse consequences. For example imagine a scale where you give more points to activators scaling dangerous routes in terrible weather conditions, this could entice people to try it when they should be staying home as the conditions are too dangerous. So, I think that trying to encapsulate variable factors into a summit difficulty rating would be 1) too difficult and subjective 2) may lead to counterproductive incentives. My idea is to focus on the fixed components that make-up the difficulty of a summit. It could be distance, vertical, gradient. It could be one of them or a combination thereof.

Moving to the next point regarding the various routes that make-up the access to a summit you once again make a very valid point. In theory the easiest route should be the one leading to difficulty points being assigned to a specific summit. We have to assume that an activator will take the easier route to a summit. Some may not but the vast majority will. Now the next point becomes: what is the easiest route on that summit given a chosen access point? That could be subjective which can be a bit tricky to include into the calculation of difficulty points. The good news is that if there is so little difference between two routes so that you cannot choose which one is easier than the other, then in theory choosing one over the other should not impact your point calculation.

The next difficulty becomes:Do we really know all the routes to a specific summit in order to choose the easiest one and calculate the points. Your example about GW/NW-001 is a very good one. Some people may know 3 routes, others 8 routes to the summit, etc… So in theory you would need the best local knowledge in order to make the best decision for your difficulty scale decision. Obviously, when you are a AM covering 100s or 1000s of summits, having the best local knowledge for each summit is impossible. Assuming you have 100k summits into the database, trying to find out that information about local routes for each one and trying using that into your calculations would be nigh impossible. I think this is where the biggest stumbling block will be and where we need to dig our collective brains in order to come-up with an acceptable alternative that best encapsulates the difficulty rating of a summit. We have to bear in mind that nothing will be perfect in terms of our choices as nothing will ever encapsulate all the factors (fixed and variable) that make up the difficulty of summit fir a given person on a given day in variable conditions. What we can do on the other hand is choose fixed factors, use fixed assumptions and then based on these and a reference point put them into an equation that would generate a “synthetic” easiest track. It may seem a bit mysterious at this stage but I have some ideas in the back of my head that I will propose to you guys a bit later.

The idea is to have a formula that is applicable to all summit configurations and as simple as possible.

So a little summary would stand as follows:

  • Ditch the variable factors (impossible to quantify all configurations and we do not want to condone risky behaviors)
  • Choose a reference starting point (the nearest access point)
  • Focus on fixed attributes (Vertical and distance to the summit for example)
  • Use fixed assumptions (you fix those once and apply them everywhere afterwards). More on this later.
  • You put everything in an equation that generates a synthetic easiest track to the summit based on the above
  • You apply the same equation everywhere and make sure it apply to all summit configurations (AK, Alps, VK, etc…)

The variability in the above approach is now limited to:

  1. The nearest access point that needs to be decided looking at topos
  2. The assumptions that you will choose once in a lifetime in order to apply them into your equation and that you will use for every summit.

All of a sudden it looks like a more manageable task.

I have never been infuriated with SOTA :slight_smile: Perplexed somtimes due to a lack of knowledge on my side but I always looked at SOTA thinking that different people had different goals in mind when doing SOTA and that each person’s goal should be respected. My goal is to try to convince you that an elegant and fun difficulty calculation adjunct can be had within the existing SOTA framework.

I will get back to you with more details on various potential approaches.
If you have read everything I have written up to here then you deserve a medal! :slight_smile:



Hi Brian, Andrew, Andy,

I have prepared something. Could one of you send me a PM with the list of emails I should send it to?



Just PM us all and it gets notified to us all that there is a PM to read and also emailed to us. IIRC you need to add the callsigns of the people involved in the recipients field.

p.s. My namesake is asleep so you have still got time to edit your message and change one “Andy” to “Andrew” :slight_smile: