How does one refer to the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, and the Isle of Man collectively? I pondered the British Isles Euler diagram and didn’t see a specific designation. "Outlying British Islands" seemed like a possibility although I didn’t want to diminish their significance. I think "Crown Dependencies" covers the three, and only those three. Perhaps 12MC readers in the UK can provide additional clarification if I missed the mark. While we’re taking a moment to clarify meanings, I’ll also state that I’m using "highpoint" to define the place of maximum elevation in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. That’s where we’re going with this article.
I’m a lazy highpointer. My climb to the Connecticut highpoint drained me. I rather preferred the New Jersey highpoint that involved nothing more than an easy drive up a hillside directly to the monument. That’s my mountaineering style and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Accounts of highpointing in the Crown Dependencies provided abundant optimism for my preferred climbing techniques and methods. I will have to find an excuse to head over to the English Channel and the Irish Sea someday to experience these completely reasonable elevation extremes in person.
Bailiwick of Jersey
View Larger Map
Jersey’s highpoint is called Les Platons, reaching an altitude of anywhere between 135-143 metres (443-469 feet). Does it seem odd that it’s not a more exact figure? It seems unusual to me, and yet, I checked in several places and found abundant variation within the range. It’s an area of the world with access to the most advanced, most exact scientific instruments available and nobody has taken a definitive measurement?
View Larger Map
Also interesting, notice the proximity of the highpoint to the English Channel. It’s perched practically atop the very farthest edge of the bailiwick, on a hillside dropping quickly to the waters below. Motorists may cut across the width of the island to La Rue des Platons — Google Maps says it should take only 11 minutes from St. Helier — and arrive at the highpoint without any difficulties. How hard could it be if Google covers it with Street View? The summit can be spotted over by the communications towers.
A trip report on Peakbagger describes the mountaineering equipment used for one particular ascent: a bicycle. Nice!
Bailiwick of Guernsey
View Larger Map
Guernsey includes several islands, principally the isle of Guernsey itself plus Alderney, Herm, Sark and a scattering of over-glorified rocks. The bailiwick highpoint isn’t found on mainland Guernsey however, it’s located on the much smaller isle of Sark. According to trip reports I reviewed, the most difficult feature of a highpoint expedition here may be the ferry ride from Guernsey to Sark over volatile English Channel waters. There can’t be too many highpoints around the world where seasickness would be a greater concern than altitude sickness.
The maximum elevation occurs at Le Moulin ("the windmill") at 114 m (374 ft). There is indeed an old Sixteenth Century windmill atop the summit, accessible easily from Rue de Rade. Peakbagger included trip reports for Le Moulin too. I enjoyed the most recent report (lightly edited for clarity):
In a teeny-weeny shop we ask for tea. The owner Helen told us, she had no license to sell us hot drinks, but anyway she can give us some tea. My answer: if I forget this money here on the table, so it is not necessary to have a license, to take it. We had a wonderful talk in the store and Helen asked Mr. Axton to open the mill. So it was possible for us, to climb the mill to the highest point of Sark and thus Bailiwick of Guernsey.
An expedition to Mt. Everest, this was not. It’s starting to sound better and better.
Isle of Man
View Larger Map
The most daunting highpoint, if one can call it that, of all the Crown Dependencies can be found at Snaefell on the Isle of Man. It’s a more respectable 620 m (2,036 ft) elevation. One can climb to the top after driving up the A-18 road to a small car park at the base of a small trail (map).
The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race follows A-18, by the way. Check out some of the video clips from previous races. The clip of Guy Martin viewed from the air includes a great scene of A-18 and Snaefell in the final scene.
SOURCE: 28Gwyn on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.
I’d rather take the Snaefell Mountain Railway though. How tough can it be to reach the top if this trolley-like vehicle can make it there on a schedule? The railway runs from the village of Laxey to the Snaefell summit during the warmer months, roughly from early April through the beginning of November. As the railway website explains,
There is only one tram at a time going up or coming down. The ride from Laxey to the summit takes thirty minutes and offers amazing views of Laxey Glens and surrounding countryside. At the top is a cafe and ticket station. Paths are located about the summit where walking is permitted. Sheep often roam free on the mountain, so can be easily encountered. From the top on a clear day it is said one can see the six kingdoms. The kingdom of Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Mann and Heaven.
Those are the leisurely highpoints of the Crown Dependencies, accessible by bicycle, stroll or public transportation, where the biggest worry may be where to stop for tea and how to get it heated.
There’s a tendency to wonder about the highest point of land as one examines an area from afar. People make quite a hobby out of of collecting visits to those highpoints even for remarkably small subunits. I’ve been know to do that myself and I’ve featured the results of my efforts on these very pages. However, considerably less attention is given to lowpoints. Where are the web pages devoted to the achievements of state and county lowpointers? Exactly. They don’t receive nearly the same level of respect as their summit climbing brethren.
I recognize that California has the lowest U.S. state lowpoint at Death Valley near the lowest public restroom in North America. I wondered though about the opposite extreme, the state with the highest lowpoint. I found a ready answer from the website of a regular reader, Dale Sanderson of usends.com. The answer is Colorado. It’s lowpoint occurs where the Arikaree River crosses into northwestern Kansas, at an elevation of 1,010 metres (3,315 feet). He can explain it much better than I, so take a look at his writeup and see how he convinced both the State of Colorado and the U.S. Geological Survey to correct a long-standing error.
View Larger Map
I also examined Canadian provinces and territories. That’s a much easier exercise since all but two have coastlines so their lowpoints have to be less than or equal to zero by definition. That leaves Alberta and Saskatchewan in the running. Whichever has the higher lowpoint gets bragging rights for Canada as neither province nestles any pockets below sea level.
View Larger Map
Saskatchewan wins. The highest provincial lowpoint can be found along the shore of Lake Athabasca on the boundary with Alberta. Water then flows from Lake Athabasca on the Alberta side of the border into the Slave River where it exits the province. This puts Saskatchewan "uphill" from Alberta and it has the higher lowpoint: 213 m (699 ft) vs. 152 m (499 ft).
I tried the same exercise with the UK, Ireland, France and others but I could not find reliable lowpoint elevations for their divisions. It seems the Americans and Canadians may be uniquely obsessed with this phenomenon.
Lowpoint information at the national level, however, is readily available so let’s determine champions by continent. Africa wins, hands-down. Lesotho has a lowpoint of 1400 m (4,593 ft) where the Makhaleng River joins the Senqu River at the border with South Africa, where it then becomes known as the Orange River (map).
Europe follows, and again it’s a small mountainous nation that has a natural advantage. Andorra’s Gran Valira River flows into Spain at 840 m (2,756 ft) above sea level (map). The primary route between these two nations runs directly alongside the river. No doubt, many tourists and residents alike get an opportunity to visit Europe’s highest national lowpoint but they probably never realize it.
Next comes Asia at Hoh Nuur in Mongolia (map) at 518 m (1,699 ft). South America follows with the confluence of the Rio Paraguay and Río Negro in Bolivia, on the Bolivian side of the Bolivia-Brazil-Paraguay (BOBRPA) tripoint (map). This highest national lowpoint for South America sits at 90 m (295 ft) above sea level. This will change if Bolivia ever gains it coastline back and frees its landlocked navy.
North America does not have any landlocked nations. There are any number of countries that tie for highest continental lowpoint along their respective seacoasts. Any nation without dry land below sea level would qualify. Finally, Australia trails the pack. It’s unique position as both a continent and a country skews the results. It has only a single national lowpoint that is actually below sea level, -15 m (-49 ft) at Lake Eyre (map). I discussed the the Lake Eyre Yacht Club in a previous article.
And Antarctica is moot in this context.
Slow news day. Let’s see if I can cobble something together.
I opened up Google Analytics in map mode and noticed a small, isolated dot that looked suspiciously near the Minnesota-Manitoba-North Dakota Highpoint. I drilled down a little further and found that I’d received a visit from the tiny town of Lancaster, Minnesota. I’d never heard of this particular Lancaster but I’m always interested in learning about new places so I decided to check it out.
View Larger Map
It seems to be a nice enough place, with wide streets, a water tower and a grain elevator in the distance. There’s not much else to know. It’s an agricultural community like so many others out here on the eastern edge of the Great Plains. The Soo Line railroad laid down tracks through here and someone built a hotel. That led to the establishment of a town in 1904 that grew to 363 people by the time the 2000 U.S. Census took place. It’s a typical story.
Lancaster also receives some attention as the gateway to a border crossing with Canada a few miles up Highway 59. Visitors can cross from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM, seven days a week.
So why is it called Lancaster? The ever-powerful Wikipedia explains that "Lancaster was named after an official of the Soo Line, believed to have come from Lancashire County in England."
So let’s cross the Atlantic Ocean to England, and head towards Lancashire
County. This serves an excellent excuse to fuse two completely different topics together that wouldn’t ordinarily fill a blog posting individually.
I recently came across an interesting website called The Mountains of England and Wales. Regular readers know that I have a fascination with counties so I went immediately to the site’s County and Unitary Authority Tops page. Let’s take a look at the Current County/UA Tops and examine Lancashire.
It appears that the County Top for Lancashire is Green Hill at 628 metres (2,060 feet). Google Street View provides a decent image of the vista.
View Larger Map
I’m not sure when I’ll have an opportunity to climb any of these county tops but I had a lot of fun wandering around the website. I guess I’ll have to stick with their counterparts, the county highpoints of the United States for now.