Correction to Secor, Mount Powell

by Mark Adrian
I still stand firm alongside the USGS/BGN/GNIS that RJ's guidebook mis-identifies Mt. Powell as does the SPS list. SPSers have been climbing not-Mt. Powell for what must be decades now. The book and SPS list need to be fixed if they are to be accurate, otherwise, I suggest the SPS nominate a new placename for "their" Mt. Powell to avoid confusion.

Richard Carey did an independent research and confirmed my findings via historical documentation he had on hand. He also converted Mt. Powell's lat/long to UTM and it's at NAD27 354960E, 4111310N, Zone 11.

I was at REI last night and pulled a copy of the Mt. Darwin 7.5'. More surprises. I noticed on their copy that Mt. Powell was clearly mislabeled at spot elevation 13,356' . Their 7.5' of Mt. Darwin simply had "1994" under the map's name in the lower right hand corner. My map, that I ordered long ago direct from the USGS says "1983" then underneath that "MINOR REVISION 1994". And, Mt. Powell is "correctly" labeled at 13,364'. My suspicion is that if and when someone climbs Mt. Powell (13,364'), there will be a very old register up there, perhaps spanning 50+ years with very few signins including Norman Clyde's.

Jennifer Runyon at the USGS writes:

Dear Mr. Adrian:

This is in response to your e-mail inquiry regarding the application of the name Mount Powell to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps. Our research shows the correct location of this feature is on the USGS 1:24,000-scale Mount Darwin map, although unfortunately not at the location indicated on the most recent edition of that map.

In 1982, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is responsible by law for standardizing geographic names and their application to Federal maps and products, was asked to define the correct location of the feature. After conducting extensive research into the matter, the Board determined in June 1983 that the name Mount Powell should be applied to the peak shown at 3708'19" North, 11837'59" West, which has an elevation of 4,073 m (13,364 ft). These coordinates are situated on the Mount Darwin topographic map, at an approximate midpoint between Mount Wallace and Mount Thompson, and just northwest of the head of Powell Glacier. This 1983 decision by the Board further affirmed a decision it had rendered in 1911, when it first approved the name Mount Powell in honor of John Wesley Powell (1834-1902), the pre-eminent explorer and former director of the USGS. The historical files for the 1911 decision also pinpointed the location at the coordinates provided above, although the elevation of the summit was listed as 4,072 m (13,361 ft).

Unfortunately, at some time after the 1911 decision, the name of the summit was incorrectly applied to another feature located 427 m (1,400 ft) to the southeast of the correct location (elevation 4,071 m (13,356 ft). This incorrect application appeared on the 1948 edition of the 1:62,500-scale USGS Mount Goddard map, and again on the 1970 reprinting of that map. When, in 1982, the first 1:24,000-scale map of that area was in production by the USGS, the misapplication was detected, thus prompting the 1983 decision by the U.S. Board. Although the 1983 edition of the Mount Darwin map carried the earlier incorrect application, the reprinting of that map in 1985 showed the correct location.

Unfortunately, however, when the Mount Darwin map was revised in 1994, the incorrect source material was used, and the former, incorrect, point was labeled Mount Powell. We have notified the Mapping Center of the inaccuracy, and have been assured that the correct application will be reflected on future editions of the map.

With regard to the location cited in your message, in which you indicate that Mount Powell should in fact appear on the Mount Thompson topographic map, our research shows that that name has never been applied to that location on any Federal sources. However, if you believe that the name is applied incorrectly to the Mount Darwin map and would like the U.S. Board to revisit its earlier decisions, please let us know. We shall be happy to provide you with a packet of material outlining the Board's principles and policies, along with the procedures necessary for submitting proposed changes to the Board for consideration. Or, you may prefer to view these guidelines at our website at the following address:

As with all name proposals, we would coordinate any research on the matter with all interested parties, which in this case, would include the Fresno and Inyo County governments; the California State Advisory Committee on Geographic Names; the National Park Service; and the U.S. Forest Service.

We hope this information will be helpful to you, and we appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention. If you have further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely yours,
Jennifer Runyon
For Manager GNIS, Geographic Names Office
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Reston, VA

The information provided in these pages is provided by interested volunteers and has not been field checked. R.J. Secor, The Mountaineers and the Sierra Club are in no way responsible for the accuracy of any route advice on this web site. Safe climbers must be able to understand the terrain and topography of the area they travel in, and they must make wise route finding choices based their own knowledge, experience and observations.