GOLDEN, Colo. -- Ever since explorer John Wesley Powell stashed a note on a Colorado mountaintop in 1868, climbers have been leaving their names on everything from official summit registers to scraps of cardboard.
Two Colorado entrepreneurs want them to leave their names in cyberspace, too.
D'Arcy Straub and Stu Spath have launched a Web site called ePeakRegister where mountaineers can record climbs of any summit in the world. Straub says the site makes it easy for people to keep track of their climbs and teaches "Leave No Trace" ethics to protect overused mountains.
Straub and Spath also want to link up with groups like the Colorado Mountain Club to give the online records an official sanction.
"What we would ultimately like to do is say, OK, we'll register your climbs on our Web site and then just hand the Colorado Mountain Club a CD, and they can archive the CD," he said.
So far, the Golden-based club is staying on the sidelines. Kristy Judd, the club's executive director, said ePeakRegister offers some advantages, such as making sure climbers always have a place to record their summits. But she has concerns about its accuracy.
Straub understands, especially when it comes to prestige climbs, like Colorado's 54 peaks over 14,000 feet, called Fourteeners. "I like to say you (could) climb all the Fourteeners in one sitting, or you climb Mount Everest with a beer in your right hand and a mouse in your left," he said. "There are probably certain peaks where we'd want to maintain the integrity of the register." That could be done by checking with groups that track climbs of major peaks.
Straub said traditional peak registers, usually a form inside a canister on the summit, aren't absolutely accurate. Some climbers don't sign because the register is full, buried under snow or missing.
EPeakRegister is not the first online summit register, but Straub said it's the only one that lets mountaineers sort their climbs by date, elevation, location or other ways.
He said the site could help climbing clubs maintain their summit records. The Colorado club keeps registers on scores of peaks, with thousands of names added yearly. Online lists and CD storage could simplify that.
Curt Buchholtz, author of "Rocky Mountain National Park: A History," wonders whether an online register will be permanent.
"Considering the trouble I have accessing my e-mail some days, I don't know if it's going to be there in five years," he said. "As a historian, I'm most enchanted with the idea that John Wesley Powell left some evidence in 1868."
The paper that Powell signed on Sept. 26 of that year, on the summit of would be called Mount Powell, is withered now and stored in the collection of the Colorado Historical Society.
Straub said ePeakRegister can never replace archives such as that, or the hundreds of registers stored at the Colorado Mountain Club. The club's files are packed with climbers' signatures on formal registers, scraps of grocery bags, business cards, even a cracker box.
The lists, dating to 1912, are a record of triumph and tragedy. They hold signatures from the likes of Roger Tolan, who later became the first superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Agnes Vaille, who froze to death during a daring winter climb of Longs Peak in 1925.
EPeakRegister preserves a more intimate history for Randy Christopherson of Littleton, Colo., who recorded all his climbs since boyhood there.
"This is a personal thing for me. I'm not one who has to prove it to the world," he said.
This month, he climbed Washington's Mount Rainier with his daughter to celebrate her college graduation and then logged the event on ePeakRegister when he got home.
"You know, it didn't feel quite as good as signing the actual register, but it felt pretty good," he said.
Colorado Mountain Club: http://www.cmc.org/cmc/
Leave No Trace: http://www.lnt.org/
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