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All About The Bivouac Website

Reviewed: 2017.05.16 Contact Us

Welcome to the Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia. It is the largest guidebook in Canada. It was started in 1995 and growing continuously since then. The guidebook is structured, with pages on each mountain, backroad, trail and feature. Every item is geo-referenced such that it can be displayed on a built in mapping system. It has 30,000 mountains, 4000 backroads, 3000 trails.

Attached to the basic infrastructure items, Bivouac has 10,000 feature photos, 2700 trip reports and 6900 road/trail bulletins. It also has about 400 articles such as equipment reviews.

Gmap
Each "page" has a link at the top called "GMap". It launches a Google based mapping system. Whatever page you start GMap from, the map information will be centered around that point. Beside every GMap link is a red question mark ? which leads to a Introductory GMap Tutorial. There is a lot you can do with GMap, so you'll probably want to read the tutorial at some point.

But here's a summary. GMap displays a "base map" such as the familiar Canadian 1:50,000 maps we all used for decades. On top of this "base map", GMap overlays the road, trail and mountain information from the database. It only overlays everything within 20 km. You can then pan the map and see everything within your area of interest. This allows you to investigate the condition of various roads without knowing the name of the road.

Gpx Export: As you know, a .gpx file is a file which you can load into your GPS. A Gpx file can contain a whole set of mountains, roads, trails and features like cabins. To make these .gpx files, there are various links. Every trip page has a link to download a trck log for that trip. Every mountain page has a link to make a gpx file containing all mountains, roads and trails within 20 km.

What is most useful? Depends on who you talk to. Like any large system, most users only discover a subset of the full capabilities. I know that because when I add a new and important link such as GMap, 6 months later I find out only a minority of users have discovered it. Some people think the maps and satellite images are the most valuable feature of the website. Others are mainly interested in reading the trip reports. Others think the road and trail bulletins are the most important reason to subscribe. Others are primarily interested in the photos.

There are thousands of road and trail bulletins based on eye witness information by members. Logging roads are continuously being built and disabled, so the bulletins are the only way to keep up with that. There are over 6900 of these bulletins. These are a valuable contribution to the hiking community, and are often quoted or copied by various other websites.

The website is deliberately constructed in a simple and plain appearance so it will run on cell phones, tablets, and in a small window on your computer. It is plain HTML, so you are unlikely to encounter problems. The main idea is to provide you with a guidebook.

Trip Reports The database has 2600 detailed trip reports. These trip reports are carefully written, edited and indexed to serve as a useful guidebook. They are not simply repeats of standard trip routes discussed in other websites or guidebooks. Each trip report is structured in a standard format, so it is easy to look up the information you want. For example, there is always a standard section describing access. The route of the trip is shown on a topo map. (The GMap Link). You can download all waypoints as a .gpx file for use on your GPS. You can download the actual reports to an "e reader" or a cell phone.

Feature Photos The encyclopedia also has a collection of 10,000 "feature photos of mountains. Each feature photo has the date, vantage point, and a description. The photos are often used by people for research purposes.

All trip reports and photos are indexed so it's easy to look things up. The database structure has been evolving slowly since 1995. The reason we ask you to become a paid supporter for $25 is to support this work, and to pay for the expenses. Your support ensures that all the work people put into writing up reports is not lost. The coordinator and database programmer is Robin Tivy, with help on the mapping systems from several other very skilled technical people.

The website is now generally accepted to be the most complete and systematic website for mountaineering and hiking in Canada. Most of the trip reports are hiking and climbing trips, but there are also some bicycle and canoe/kayak trips - anything that involves camping and exploring. The peak lists cover all major peaks in both Canada and United States.

The purpose is to inspire and enable people to get out into the mountains. If you are maintaining your own website, or a club website, I hope you feel it's worthwhile to link to bivouac. Here is a 2 line description: Bivouac.com - Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia.

Record Types
To understand the Bivouac database, people quickly learn the main types of data record. Here are the main record types:

  1. Mountain records (one record for every mountain on the maps)
  2. Road/trail records (one for every road and trail on the maps)
  3. Area records (with polygons defining boundaries. These include mountain ranges, icefields, etc.)
  4. Trip report records (one for every trip report)
  5. Feature Photo records (one for every large photo)
In addition there are lesser records which are attached to these main records:

  Road Bulletins (each record is a note made on a certain date about a road)
  Trip Comments (you enter these on the trip page)
  Photo Comments
  Mountain Notes
  Mountain Climbing Routes One short record for each route on the mountain

Because every trip report has lat-long waypoints that describe the route, these waypoints can be used to display relevant trips to any mountain. For example, at the bottom of a mountain page, such as Mount Garibaldi you see the headings of trip reports attached to that mountain. Similarly, when you look at a Road page, you see the attached road bulletin records.

Where does the information come from? A lot comes from other members, just like you. Every week, members post several dozen new road bulletins, trip reports and photos. You can see these in "What's New". On that page there is also a link to "New Infrastructure". Infrastructure is permanent objects such as mountains, roads, and areas, as opposed to "articles" such as trip reports. The infrastructure is maintained by various editors across the country. These editors are just people who have been around for a while, have posted a few trip reports and photos, and know the system. They are always fixing things up. A huge amount of work goes into making sure the site has the supporting "infrastructure" for every article. For example, if somebody talks about using a new road to access an area, the editors make sure that a supporting "road record" is added.

All the information in the website has lat-longs in it, which tie it into a geographic model. This allows you to do radius searches and find nearby trips or photos. The website has a custom written geographic information system.This is important, because hundreds of the articles involve mountains that are unnamed. Every trip report and photo is indexed by one or more lat-long waypoints, and the system is capable of searching for them using this information.

Documentation: What good is the website if no one can learn it? I've spent endless time on documentation for the website, reviewing and rewriting as things evolve. There are both general introduction articles, tutorials, and specific help messages. For a general introduction, see Website User's Guide - Essential Functions. Now that you know what you are supposed to be able to do, click the Help Link at the top of any page and look up what you want to do. Change your password, insert a trip report, download a gpx file - it's all there. And if you can't figure out the help, email me. Contact Us

Documentation Philosophy The basic philosophy of the user documentation is to tell you how the thing actually works. I don't try to hide the underlying structure. You may as well know the main types of data record. That way you understand the difference between a "Road" record and a "Road bulletin" record. Although both of these records are displayed on the same "Road Page", the information is coming from two different record types.

Index
There are many important parts of the Bivouac website that are only accessible via the index. For example, the link to insert a trouble ticket is only visible in the index. Or the map of Alpine Rambling Areas. All users should glance through the index and briefly investigate each link.

Finance plan

 The encyclopedia is a permanent resource, with a permanent plan to stay in operation. Which means a permanent plan to pay ongoing expenses. That's what your $25 dollars goes toward. Since it is a permanent website, it's worth spending a bit of time to explore and learn the site.

The basic mountain information is free. I hope that after you come back a few times as a free member, you'll become convinced that it is worth supporting as a paying member. Being a paying member gives you access to a huge amount of additional information. It costs $25 Canadian dollars per year or $50 for 3 years. Because we do not receive any government grants, this money is essential to keeping it running long term.

You can convert your free login record to "paid" status at any time just by going to the login page and clicking "Become Paid Member". But first, enjoy your free membership!

Now you know what is possible. To find out how to do it, use the Help - How To Instructions.