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What is your route planning like?

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What is your route planning like?

Postby ndwoods » Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:06 am

Ok, after reading RoguePhotonic's awesome trip plans and some of the comments about his indepth planning...just had a question for you all....how many do really detailed plans? And how many hike by the seat of your pants? I've done both...
I usually plan to the max. I get my idea of where I want to go, I make my own maps, I go online and try to find pics of sketchy passes etc that are offtrail etc etc etc
But....I find in my later years and with so much off trail under my belt, I have been planning less and less. Our last trip perfect example. It was about half off trail in the Peter Pande lakes area. I had actually the night b4 we left at work during the grave hours gone over my map with a fine tooth comb and made a route. No time for internet search, no time for my larger scale homemade maps, no time for pics. And to top it off...I accidentally left that map at work! So...in the morning we packed the maps we had of the area sans route marked and went anyway. Total success! I knew the major landmarks I wanted to hit and we just studied as we went.
What do you guys do?



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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:14 pm

I think most of my detailed planning comes simply from wanting to explore areas. You figure how long you think it will take to get there and then to the next destination. Since we have such detailed topographic maps today I don't ever find myself looking up some where and thinking I wonder what is up there since I already know. Then I don't want to find myself carrying way more or not enough food so it comes down to fine details. I could certainly see after I have explored everything to then plan casual trips back to great areas with allot of flexibility to just enjoy being out compared to constantly being on the move.

The way this years hike has come together in planning I based on sections. I knew there were places in the Sierra I wanted to see so I planned that section by itself and then bit by bit linked them together.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby LMBSGV » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:28 pm

I make detailed plans in advance with a day by day itinerary based on research in guides and online. Then, once I get on the trip, I(we) try to stick to the itinerary, but when something happens that interferes with it, I(we) feel no compunction about changing plans. That something can vary from the weather, fatigue or lack of fatigue on a particular day, and, more importantly, if coming to a really incredible place and we want to stop for the day or an hour or two, we will, throwing off any strict itinerary. Also, I always put in layover days for a chance to wander around somewhat aimlessly and to better appreciate where I am, especially since at my age, I may never manage to be there again. On my solo trips, I give my wife a map of my trip with the route and camping locations. It always makes her laugh when I've added an alternative route for certain days and as many as 3 different places to camp on a particular day. Then when I don't stay at any of those, she'll kid me about it when I get back with "I guess that little lake on the third day had a spectacular view." or "I figured you got too tired and wanted to stop there."
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:56 pm

I plan in great detail. I use TOPO program and divide the route into small increments. Each increment ends at a plausible camping spot with a water source. My incremenets are anywhere from a mile to about 3 miles. I have a spreadsheet developed that I then put in miles, elevation +/-. I then can enter an estimated travel rate. The spreadsheet calculates estimated time that includes elevation gain and travel rate. Over the years I have refined my travel rate on various terrain so that my estimated times are quite accurate for me. When I get all the pieces lined up, I then figure out each day's travel by adding up the increments. I often will then do the route in reverse. It is amazing how many times things just work out better logistically if you simply reverse the loop direction. I also put in my day-hike exploration wanderings and bail-outs and detours. For example when doing the High Route I had a detour to Frozen Lake Pass already figured out an alternate route and time required to detour if need be. I just like having that kind of information already figured out and written down. Or, for example, I reach my destination early in the day and want to hike more. I already know where my next water source will be and how much time it will take to get there. If it is streching it, then I stay put. I just hate to end up nearing dark, exhausted, still hunting for a campsite. Yes, I alter my daily mileage, but most often stick to the route. I prefer end-of-day destinations that are scenic and have some opportunity to wander around and explore. If I were the type who simply walked 10 miles then stopped, I probably would not do this detailed planning. I also would not do this much planning if I did not REALLY enjoy it! I would rather spend winter's evenings route planning than watching TV.

I also have a spreadsheet for my gear and food. I can look at many configurations of gear and food and know the exact weight I will have to carry with each. The food part also figures out calories and %carbs/protein/fat. I mainly put together the food I want, then see how it works out nutritionally. Often I have to tweak my food choices to get to a healthy nutritional goal. I am NOT an UL backpacker, but I am VERY careful about pack weight, being small and older.

I do not feel I am "tied" to my plan- rather it gives me the peace of mind to change plans when I am out because I have already figured out the details. That is not to say I do not sometimes go significantly off my route. If I look in the distance and something looks especially enticing, I may just go over and check it out. But when I do that, having my basic route figured out, I know if I can make up the mileage later. I can make an informed decision. I do most of my travel off-trail and for me, the more off trail, the more I like to plan in detail.

I think being a "planner" vs "impulsive" is a basic personality type. No right or wrong. Planning just makes us "planners" much more comfortable.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby dave54 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:32 pm

My wife is a planner. She likes detailed itineraries with even the timing and locations of lunch breaks identified.

I am more of 'flip a coin at trail intersections' type of hiker.

Like most married men I am consistently outvoted one to one, so when we hike together we do it her way. Hiking alone I do it my way.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby markskor » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:28 pm

Thought provoking topic – Pardon the wanderings.

In years past, pre-made plans were exacted to the nth, food re-packaged and weighed, maps scrutinized, multiple REI trips done - checking, and for sure, each night’s destinations were mapped and re-mapped. I was Rogue…Probably spent twice, maybe three times the hours planning the adventure than actually hiking the trails. Nothing wrong with this approach - safe; much to be said about both values: anticipation and foresight.

Right now, as winter is dealing out her seasonal cards, we soon enough will discover what weather hands she has generously dealt us all – Sierra. Must say, she hasn’t been as charitable this year – not the royal flush of last season. All indications point to a low-water year and little snowpack – looks like an early season.
Without significant spring snowfall in the next few months ahead, much of the high country could well be open by mid-June, and have decided that I might as well be there then to check for myself…plan to be in Yosemite most of the season but as to where? Still highly questionable.

In years past, pre-made plans were exacted to the nth – not this year. This season, any pre-plans merely include: checking the gear (like many here, have great equipment and well-tested), loading up my trusty pack and a few backup rods and reels, adding all the art supplies needed for some Yosemite Art classes, gassing up the jeep, maybe a weeks worth of food, and a credit card. The rest is up to fate and Karma. FYI, my jeep (HST sticker) will be parked at Curry Orchard mostly, June till late August – drop off a message.

Plans: So far there are a few important dates to keep – one, a much-anticipated spot-pack, fishing trip with a few good friends come July 8, and then perhaps another try for that Sierra slam with this “older” respected fool I know, starting out ~ July 15th – 10 - 12 days of fishing. That should take care of July’s plans.

I have all the 7.5 Topos of Yosemite (well, not all but 13), my health, and plenty of time to explore. As a solo, I could conceivably go anywhere desired…next-day permits are easy. Right now, my first trip looks like a solo retrace of Balzaccom’s X-country route of last year - Elizabeth – Vogelsang, but after that, who knows what route to take down to the Valley, or after. I find it easier to plan my escapades when actually in the Sierra than when down in the city. Who knows what is open, if the fishing is good, or who you might meet?

Plans? Why? I have always had great backpacking friends and one of my favorite strategies nowadays is to be flexible - let them do all the hard planning (and mooch) and hopefully be allowed to tag along on any grand adventure that excites, knowing that even the most comprehensive campaigns usually change anyway...Good times there.
BTW, You can buy food anywhere.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:37 pm

I do a lot of planning, but it mostly constitutes "feasibility daydreaming". I roll out the topo maps, start drinking some very good beer, then think of a combination of destinations and routes, and with fun off trail twists if it is a serious trip. I do some figuring of hiking times to put together a rough itinerary to see if certain plans are in fact feasible and aren't overly harsh. Once off from the car, though, the longer trips have never followed the script too closely and commonly depart very radically from it. A good deal of the enjoyment comes from calling those audibles. Then again, this is the way I do everything, including my scholarly (geology, in this case) research (including the beer part).
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:35 am

The previous posts made me remember that there really are two parts to planning. First is designing the trips. I do that in detail. I have a "closet" full of pre-planned trips of various lengths. Yes, sitting with maps, beer in hand, planning routes is really FUN! The second part is actually nailing down the dates, permits, partners, etc. This for me is very spur of the moment. I most often decide I want to get out (cabin fever sets in). I decide on a 4-day trip, pack up gear and food, and often leave my home not yet knowing exactly which of the various trips I will do! Once I decide and get a permit, I do call home and let everyone know where I am off to! This is a luxury of being retired. When I had a full time job I had to request vacation time in advance and get permits in advanced - a much more structured approach. And if you have a family with kids, it gets even more difficult to squeeze in backpacking.

The GPS has also facilitated in more free-form hiking. With hard copy maps, unless you wanted to carry pounds of maps, you had to stay on your few maps you decided to bring. Now with GPS you have the entire Sierra at hand. By the way, I do not use a GPS, but I do see this as one of its biggest advantages. The ultimate decider on the length of your trip is the food you carry. Just about everyone comes back out when the food runs out.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:27 pm

I plan but don't obsess - I have an idea of where I want to be, and how I want to get there, and the time it will take. I get updated info on permitting rituals and regulations, food storage, road conditions and so on in the couple of weeks before the trip. I'll usually already have an idea of weather patterns.

I have a list of areas I want to visit or re-visit, annual destinations I take groups back to each year, and a list of longer trips I'd like to take, so when the opportunity arises I can pack X days of food and go. And it can all change in the blink of an eye if there is a SAR callout. So I really can't commit totally until the week of the trip, and even then it can be called off, or my buddies go without me.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby paul » Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:02 pm

When I'm going to be off-trail, I tend to study the route pretty carefully, staring at the maps and at google Earth and at any photos I can find online of the area. I'll focus on the parts of the route that I'm not sure will "go". This is mostly true of ski trips - in the summer I've never had any problems with the viability of a route I chose from the map at home, but on snow the story is different, since I'm not that good a skier, so I'm trying to find a route that fits my capabilities. Plus there may be cornices on the pass I want o go over, so I'm always hoping to see some photos of the passes with snow on them. I don't usually try to plan campsites from the map, and I don't get too specific about how far I will go any one day. If I'm going in and coming out at the saem point I'm going to plan less than if the trip is point to point.
The trip I want to take one of these days is a trip with no maps, no compass, no watch, and to a area I'm not familiar with, and without studying the maps. No route planning at all, just total exploration. I know it breaks all the rules, but so what, I've got almost 40 years of off-trail navigating experience, I'm confident that I can get back out of anywhere I get into.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby SSSdave » Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:46 pm

These days my important trips are highly planned. Often they go off like clock work exactly as I expect. A serious mountain landscape photographer wants to find the best images possible. Once probabilities for such are located, one has to figure out how to be at those locations during the narrow windows each day of best light. Often is the situation of never having visited a place and only having analyzed a topo map of the perspective. Of course today one can look at Google Earth some too. In any case it is not a matter of arriving at a new location and immediately setting utripod to take a picture. No I often am scurrying about the terrain quickly looking for foregrounds and best perspectives. Sometimes will see something on a lakeshore then race 100 yards down the shore to something else only to return a minute later. So in my planning is time to figure out where to shoot from.

If one has a few prospective spots to shoot from, then the need to make a careful plan, often a circuit of where to be when. For instance one trip I have this year requires we get up at 5am, pack up gear quickly, hike a half mile up 500 feet to cross a ridge, then down 800 feet, rambled a couple miles, in order to hopefully reach some small ponds by 8am prime time. Then dally for an hour or so before continuing on 2 miles to reach my prospective camp area near a another lake that has best light from about 5pm to dusk. After making camp there late morning, we will relax, fish, make lunch. Then about 3pm I will climb up several hundred feet to reach about 4pm a perspective on a large panorama of benches, lakes, peaks. There I hope expose a sheet of film and then quickly ramble back to our camp zone to start working that area by 5:30pm. And at the end of the day have the choice of shooting across the lake east southeastward towards the rising night wedge or to run across to the other side of the lake and shoot the setting dusk sky. So lots of planning with many options depending on weather and conditions.

Not too uncommon is the situation of shooting sunset light, rambling back to camp in dusk light where at midday I had packed up my gear into a 90% ready to go pack that is leaning against a tree trunk. Then will shove my camera gear into the pack, put on my headlamp, and stumble out towards some destination to camp at in the dark a mile or two away that I have planned to shoot at dawn or sunrise.
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Re: What is your route planning like?

Postby quentinc » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:50 pm

I hardly plan at all. There, someone had to say it. :)

I always have at least a rough itinerary in mind, but I often change my mind part-way through. Once I went over Lamarck Col, with the idea of eventually ending up at South Lake. After climbing Mt. Spencer, I decided to head the other way on the JMT, and ended up back at North Lake via Gemini, Feather and Puppet Passes. It was one of my favorite trips. Most of my trips are solo, and I never reserve permits in advance, so I don't even do that part of the planning. There's nothing like the freedom of the wilderness.
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