By Angela Crampton
During a recent virtual happy hour, I found myself reflecting on how much the mountains and adventures impact my life and realized that trip planning for mountain adventures has actually helped prepare me for the pandemic and social distancing.
As an outdoor blogger, my communities have been asking me questions about how to find dispersed camping, what’s open right now, how do I equip my van, etc. As I was typing my responses, it made me realize just how much WORK it is to have outdoor adventures.
Trip planning involves trying to find off-the-beaten trails or less populated places to recreate. You become a master of lists.
Mental checklists include researching land management sites, map boundaries, and permits. You use many map resources and layers, like Google Maps and Gaia GPS, to gain a visual understanding of the terrain you’re planning to adventure. You create a route starting with driving direction and the trails you’ll be traveling. You use maps (and weather) to overlay the snow depth. If the trip includes glacier travel, you try to find recent trips reports or GPX tracks where people navigated glaciers and snow bridges to make a trail of your own.
You may call ranger stations or read recent trip reports on local sites or social media, like regional Facebook groups. You watch and decipher the weather, including precipitation, wind, or snow levels, a few times a day in multiple areas to chase the best weather location for a weekend trip and shift your plans accordingly.
You do math to reverse calculate how long it will take and how many days it will take to hike over not just distance (miles) but also how much the elevation will slow your speed. If you’re camping or climbing at altitude, you give your body time to acclimate over the route and might even plan acclimatization day trips from a basecamp.
Depending on the trip, you may create a planning document that is shared with friends. It includes the route description, shared gear lists and individual gear lists, contact information, and emergency information. You write out the driving directions, link to the weather research you’ve done, add the permit details, and add any trip beta or resources to continue to monitor up until the date of your trip. You select an in-town contact and provide them with all the details in case you don’t return home after the planned itinerary.
You copy your gear list and start checking the boxes on what you’re packing. You coordinate with your friends on who is responsible for what gear. You calculate how many calories you need to eat every day. You separate your food by the day to make sure you’re getting enough snacks and calories for the day for how much energy you’re using. You even pack a little extra in case you have to stay another night to wait out weather during the trip. You figure out how much fuel you need for cooking and plan what water sources are available (moving water or snow). You may practice up on your rescue skills or knots that will be used during the technical sections of the climb.
Right before the trip, you download your planning documents and maps offline. You take final screenshots of the weather forecasts. If you’re a super planner, you even pack for the post trip luxuries. You leave a clean pair of clothes in your car with some snacks and beer to celebrate a trip to the mountains.
Though all the work sounds cumbersome or time consuming, the preparation allows you to build on your knowledge of your locality or mountain range, prepare backup options, and minimize risk on your adventure. What are you going to remember – the planning or the adventure?