Saturday, November 3, 2012

Do Mountain Peaks Change?

                                   The rugged backside of Mt. Ogden Peak today.

MOUNTAIN Peaks do change substantially over just a few decades, thanks to man.
This means history-wise, mountain peaks can change more rapidly than some of the natural landmarks in the valley below.
Take Mount Ogden, the tallest peak to the east of Ogden, Utah, at 9,572 feet above sea level.
In 1988, the peak had one small metal plaque and a single, narrow transmitter tower on its summit.
(See the 1988 photo below.)
That was the year when Weber State University's "Flaming W" fall hike to the top of Mount Ogden was revived. (I had pretty good video footage of that event.)
By 2010, 22 years later, there was an array of transmitters installed on the peak, as well as a cement helicopter pad.
You sat on rugged rocks when visiting the peak in the 1980s.
Today, it is cool to rest of a flat cement pad.
Back in 1988, there was no dirt road up the final approach to Mt. Ogden -- you had to scramble all the way up. There was a dirt road to the dip between peaks, to the south, but that's where the road ended.
(Note the newer, color photos below that show the many transmitters and the cement landing pad.)
Certainly some would argue that the many transmitters there now pollute the peak.
However, they comprise cell phone transmitters, emergency transmitters and even Utah Transit Authority repeaters. Without them, outdoor users in the area would probably receive no cell signal.
Also, emergency communications in the valley below would be spotty, making it less safe to help those in medical or emergency need.
Even the name of Mount Ogden has changed over the decades.
Dr. A.B. Condon of Ogden succeeded in getting the name of what had been called Observatory Peak since the 1870s, changed to Mount Ogden Peak in 1920.
--And, in Davis County, to the south, there is even a much more changed peak -- Francis Peak.
Although most maps list Francis Peak as being 9,547 feet above sea level, that was BEFORE the radar domes were constructed on its summit, during 1958-1959.
Built at a cost then of $2 million (more than $16 million in 2012 dollars), the facilities removed 32 feet in height from Francis Peak and forever changed its appearance.
So, you might argue that Francis Peak is only 9,515 feet tall now -- at least the rock portions are.
However, the radar domes add another 115 feet in artificial height and so a satellite GPS would measure the peak's elevation at more like 9,630 feet above sea level.
That's not enough to rival Thurston Peak (9,706 feet above sea level) as the highest peak in the area, though.
What I would love to find someday is a photograph of how Francis Peak looked BEFORE 1958, when it was still in its natural state.

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