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

Different scales of points for summits within different ASSOCIATIONS within a country are nornmal - examples Australia, USA, Germany (and now France), but not normally regions within an association.


ok, I get it now why they created a new association within F in order to apply a different banding. It is true that the countries you mentionned have different associations.

The point difference around the world can seem very strange though. Just an example:

DM/BW-078, Römerstein - 872m, 10 Points
VK2/ST-052, Towrang Range - 873m, 4 Points

I did not realize this until today.

Has anybody ever considered a difficulty-based scale for the allocation of points?

Yes. It isn’t feasible.

Shouldnt that be: its to difficult

Could you please elaborate?

I could think of many ideas for such a scale:

  • Vert from closest access road
  • Average gradient
  • Distance
  • Altitude (already used)
  • Time of year (already used)
  • Existing difficulty rating scales for various summits (Labande, etc…) where available

You could come up with a formula that combines all/part of this and adjust for where some of the components are missing. At least this is what my naive overview of this topic is.

I think you could add it as a new scale with new awards, etc…

You could call that the “hardcore” points or the “Old school” points :slight_smile:

Like everything else, you would need volunteers to help.

It can be more striking than that - In Australia looking at the border of VK1 and VK2 regions, summits in the same mountain range or across a valley with the same heights can have extreemly different point values. Most of VK1 is above 500m ASL, whereas VK2 starts at sea level, so the scales within the associations are different.

This is the way the system works, other wishes have been discussed at length and found not to be feasible (or far too difficult) to implement. Allocating points for summits will always be difficult with some summits (within the same region of an association even) having the same points for a “drive-up” summit and one that needs some hill walking or even scrambling/climbing to reach. The scaled points within an association is the best compromise that could be found over many years of SOTA.


Thank you for the information.

I agree that allocating points is a complex process which was simplified by originally using the ASL approach. Then there was P150 and P100, then the creation of sub-associations within a country.

So it seem to me that we are going towards more complexity where a single set of rules does not apply everywhere which ends-up leading to the discrepancies in points versus difficulty.

I think coming up with a formula that takes many components into accounts may be more complicated at the beginning but would be easier later on the application front and would yield more of a fair playing field across countries and associations.

I have re-read the general rules of SOTA and it seems that having an “even playing field” is very important for the MT which is why some associations have been re-mapped (or being re-mapped) from P100 to P150 for example.

Right now these point differences seem a bit odd to me.

Gotta be tough being a Mountain Goat in VK! :wink:

Hi Arnaud,

One of the biggest issues about difficulty is of course that one person’s easy is another’s arduous torture. There are many attempts over the years (on this reflector as well) to address or somehow work in difficulty into the equation. Eventually, it all falls down and we’re back to altitude (and season for bonus points) :slight_smile:

If you look at most associations, the 10 point band is engineered to be roughly less than 10% of the summits available. This is why we try hard to ensure we have good analysis of each association before we do any bandings. Variations in percentages for the 10 point band are due to two factors: one, geology, and two, we put band edges on ‘sensible’ numbers (like 1600m, instead of 1624m). The rest are roughly evenly distributed, with the 1 point band having the additional restriction of not starting below 500m, without good cause. This is why Singapore has a single 1 point summit (Bukit Timah) at 156m in height.

A bit of this is rule-of-thumb, or thumb-in-air, but the percentages of summits in each points band between most associations is surprisingly well aligned.

Perhaps in VK1, but the 10 point band is lower in some regions than eg, in Japan.

Yes, it’s simple. All difficulty schemes are subjective. SOTA is not subjective. It’s been discussed to point of exhaustion in the past.

Associations may have different scoring, it may not seem fair, but was often done for a reason. Life isn’t fair. Accept it and move on and enjoy the fact that irrespective of the number of points, you will always be the DX when activating a summit.


For serious difficulty v pointage how about the the St Kilda & Boreray GM/SI Group off the west coast of Scotland. And all for ONE point each. But there it is!!



And we all have to do it to Complete GM/SI; that is fair :slight_smile:

I do not think SOTA is unfair, I think it is fun but complex in many aspects and complexity leads to sometimes imperfect outcomes. If we have the ability to improve on imperfections to make it more of a level-playing fields then why not?

“SOTA is not subjective”: I would respectfully disagree with you on this one Andy. On the contrary there is some subjectivity involved, it is not a fault, it is a necessity. This is why we have a MT to make decisions. I think moving to a difficulty-based scale would make it less subjective and a more level playing field.

If you think that it is not feasible, why not challenge us to come-up with proposals? The worst outcome would be that you shoot them all down and we stay as is. Maybe you could obtain some interesting ideas via this process even if you dismiss the proposals.

It seems to be a SOTA tradition that we have periodical discussions about the scoring system. There was a particularly comprehensive one several years ago that is worth reading through in the light of the present discussion:
In post 9 I referred back to a much earlier discussion about one proposal:

"I think you have in mind the formula proposed by Dzianis DD1LD:


where ASL is obvious, RF is a reference point for access, a village or valley, (2ASL/1000-1) takes into account the complexity of high alpine regions, CB is a small bonus for difficult or remote summits, and WB is the winter bonus. If we apply this to, say, GW/NW-070 Great Orme, from sea level we have (207-0)/100+(414/1000-1)+0+0=2.48, or a winter ascent of Skiddaw G/LD-004 from Keswick with winter bonus will score about 13.17, but alpine ascents will attract much higher scores. The disadvantage is that a summit may attract different scores for ascents from different valleys, making the summit listing far more complex. This was discussed by the extended management team including all AMs but attracted little support at the time."

The discussion fizzled out with no agreement - as they all do!

I think that the present scoring system is the least worst of all suggestions to date. It works, it would take a lot of work to change it, and the time taken to change it would be better used bringing more Associations on line.


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Thanks for the background information Brian, this is very interesting.
DD1LD is one idea, others could come-up with other ideas and eventually one can be chosen.

When using a RF, you have to use a best of analysis. You basically take the point on the map that takes you the closest to your destination. If somebody is a masochist and wants to start from a valley further away it is their business but this would not affect the number of points. Similarly in today’s existing point system, if somebody decided to hike Mont-Blanc starting from Grenoble instead of the top of the ropeway the number of points would be the same and rightfully so.

Nothing is perfect but you could easily make a decision on what is the easiest access point for a climb. If that proves innacurate later then you can fine-tune it just like we do nowadays with the existing format when we fine tune the list of summits.

The hardest would be to decide on the original equation, but then it would be a lot easier after that to implement.

I agree, it would be a lot of work and I could see how some would balk at the extra workload.
Yes, I agree that it is important to bring in new Associations online but I think discussing (and maybe) refining of the scoring system since it impacts all the associations is equally if not more important.

The fact that this discussion keeps coming back (I was not aware of it but neither am I surprised) should come as an interesting flag, it is most likely not a coincidence.

Maybe we could ask members what they think via a survey and then take it from there?
You could also ask if some people would be willing to help so that you could have an idea of the level of manpower at your disposal for such a project.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.


Hi Andy,

Thanks for your input. I agree, if you start trying to put in there people’s ability (easy vs arduous torture) then it becomes more subjective, not less. On the other hand, climbing 1000m of vert instead of 500m will be harder for all categories of people regardless of whether they are good hikers or not and that is one of the objective factors that we could use.

Calibrating the banding to have roughly 10% of the summits with 10 points on the other hand is a subjective decision. It is not wrong and it works but it is subjective. So is the geology.

I think that naturally a lot of people who are competitive about SOTA (not everybody is) will tend to go for the ‘easier’ high-pointers. That is why you get some summits activated so often while others never get activated. People are rational and for the same number of points prefer to go for the easier summits. What it means though for all the Chasers and SWLs is that you risk reaching a saturation point. Think of the chaser going “F/AM-XXX, oh I have this one 5 times in the log this year already, forget it”. Re-jigging the point system based on difficulty would surely re-invigorate the system and push people looking for points to go for the less often activated summits which would in turn generate more interest and traffic for chasers and SWL.

I am always impressed by the level of activity out of VK. I always try to listen from JA, but the propagation being what it is… :slight_smile:


You see, there the difficulties appear immediately. The closest point may be at the foot of a cliff. The approach from the highest access might take you across a bog. The easiest access point in winter may not be the easiest point in summer. Cable cars, mountain railways and ski lifts may be seasonal. An easy slope in summer might be a high avalanche risk in winter. With some of these suggestions every summit must be evaluated individually and there are over 100,000 of them.

My thoughts include “enjoy the different experience that each summit can offer” and “I am really pleased that I am hooked on Unique summits where the points value is not that important an issue”…

I agree with all your points Brian.

For summer, the nearest access point from a summit is objective, for winter the bonus is a blanket one. At some point you have to make a decision on the level of complexity you want to include. Nothing will ever be perfect and at some stage if you have the ability to narrow the gap between a 10 point drive-on with a 3 hour hike 4 pointer then why not? Vert from a reference point would easily do that even if the choice of that reference point is not perfect. Whether with the RF point you are at the foot of the cliff, in front of a bog or in front of an easy trail the vert that will need to be done will stay the same, you’ll just have to go around. Even a basic approach like this one would remove some of the most extreme point differences we are seeing at the moment.

Nothing in life comes easy though and I agree that 100k summits is a massive task. It would have to be a progressive process like everything else.

I think Brian sums it up rather well.

73, Rod