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Classifying Routefinding - Routefinding Difficulty ratings #4278
Back To Discussion List Written: 2014.08.26 by: Dean Richards

I haven't been able to find any discussion on how to classify routefinding on Bivouac, in the same way that there is a discussion for general difficulty ratings for trips (YDS). There is mention of routefinding being a factor, but no real breakdown. I've used easy, moderate, and difficult as descriptors, but I've not been confident at all on how others perceive difficult vs moderate routefinding. Perhaps this could evolve into a Bivouac Document. Would also appreciate links too outside sources as well. I've leant out my copy of Freedom of the Hills at the moment, so I can't check there.

I've considered easy routefinding to be where there's no trail, but you can see your destination and most of the terrain in between. Moderate routefinding to me I guess would be where you might have to backtrack, but unlikely to get lost or had your day too thrown off due to the routefinding, assuming you're experienced.

My recent trip into St Mary's Alpine is one in particular where I'd be tempted to call it difficult routefinding, but 95% of the trip wasn't technical at all, though with the bushwhacking in slide alder, ending up in a different spots than intended, and being a bit tense half the day not knowing if you're route would go through, certainly makes me think that calling it difficult wouldn't be a stretch. Also, I would think that anywhere you'd go where you'd want written instructions on the routefinding, due to not being able to wing it, would likely be difficult as well. Anyways, those are my guesses. I've been unsure how to factor consequences into the equation as well. Getting off route on moderate/difficult scramble could put some people into a tough situation, but does that in and of itself up the routefinding level?


Comments

#1787 - 2014.09.03 Dean Richards - Agreed
Good points, Sandra. There's a whole other level of subjectivity depending on how much google earthing you've done ahead of time to burn your planned route into memory, and that's not something that would've ever been taken into account even a decade ago. I haven't gone with a GPS in hand yet, but the Google Earth thing makes a big difference.

#1786 - 2014.09.01 Sandra McGuinness - Too dependent on skill/expertise to be categorized with any accuracy
While I applaud the idea, the concept seems difficult to quantify with any accuracy. Route-finding skill seems to be so very dependent on people's skill/ability that I can't imagine coming up with any sort of scale that will have any kind of linear aspect from easier to more difficult.

I hate (no, not that's not true, in general, I'm pretty happy) to sound like an old curmudgeon, but with a new generation of climbers coming out who have gained all their experience with a GPS track in hand, what is easy route-finding for one, will be incredibly difficult for another.

You mention scrambling as an example, but part of being able to scramble safely includes having a reasonably solid grasp of route-finding. I'd argue that any mountaineering travel requires a solid grasp of route-finding (both on a macro and micro level) and map reading ability. If you accept that assumption, the whole idea of having to quantify something like route-finding difficulty is just kind of silly. Like trying to quantify how difficult it is to place protection on a traditional rock climbing route where the expectation is that you know how to place protection before you start climbing. No-one ever does that. There may be a protection rating which describes how run-out the route is (e.g. the PG grade frequently used in climbing guidebooks), but there is an assumption that if you are climbing the route, you can place gear - and read a route topo to find the route (much like being able to route-find in the mountains).

My assumption would be that if you are going out into the mountains without a trail you have a reasonable grasp of basic navigation and route-finding and there is no need for a separate rating. But, I'm an old curmudgeon who thinks that at some point we need to stop spoon feeding the masses.

#1783 - 2014.08.27 Robin Tivy - Difficulty of route finding is combined with overall difficulty
In trip reports, there is a difficulty index which combines both technical difficulty and routefinding difficulty. This also varies depending on the type of trip: ski trips use different criteria. Five Levels of Trip Difficulty. Mostly we rely on the separate "Difficulty" field to say how hard it is, the main idea of the ratings is just to be used in the trip finder function. Here are the Reference Cases.