|(Photo Above: Ben Groundwater on the Spearhead. Seeing is a luxury we don't always have.)|
Topo maps are pretty easy to get a hold of as well. They come as PDF's from the government, you just save them, then print them AND laminate them at any print shop. Many stores have popular areas, where you can buy waterproof versions, and custom maps such as John Baldwin's series.
Free, printable PDF, 1:20,000 maps of all of BC. Did I mention they are free? Tends to be the fastest way to get a map, plus you have to option of customizing on the computer, or printing it to lay down some notes and route before laminating it.
An online and custom mapping software, which allows you to build your own map with a variety of different scales, colours, even orthophoto layers if available for the area your working on.
This website rocks. It is another free topographic map provider, but it allows you to download custom sections of map, and also overlay it in Google Earth over the terrain so you can even see what the topographic terrain looks like in 3D. But that's not all, it has maps for all of Canada and The USA. Just click on the USGS 7.5' Topos section in the top right for 1:20,000 that include Canadian versions, that you would find on GEOBC. And, if that's not enough, you can load these maps directly from the website onto your Garmin GPS. The US section is ahead of the Canadian section, as it also has option for angle shading, and a bunch of really cool features. Oh, and there's more, but one of the really cool KML/KMZ downloads is an giant 1:20,000 topo map overlay of all of Canada!
Hill Map is much like CalTopo, but has some different features such as overlays, GPS route planning, and one feature I love... Points. Click any point on the map, it will give you Lat / Long, AND a slope angle. Perfect for planning white-out section where you may be concerned about avalanche hazard, thus knowing your okay, rather than just hoping.
Okay, if you are a skier or climber, and you don't have Google Earth it's time to get off your horse and carriage and drive a car finally. This program and plugin is usually required for many of these websites, but is really useful when planning any trip.
Magnetic Declination Calculation
This site will not give you any maps, but should never be skipped, as it simply gives you the magnetic declination required for your area to navigate properly. Write it down on your map, so you aren't forced to calculate it in the field when stress levels can be high.
Doug Sproul's amazing backcountry guide to Rogers Pass, utilizing Google Earth, Topo Maps, and route description all in one amazing package for your phone. This is the future of guidebooks.
Route photo's come in next and are incredibly useful, especially when arriving on top of a mountain where you can't exactly see all the hazards and route from the top. Do you go left or right? Is there a traverse? Cliffs? Crevasses? Most importantly, good skiing? By looking at the route photo's, everything becomes easier as you can landmark on your way down to hit the line you have planned. It also will help your mind to interpret the map data into a clear mental picture and get you dialled with your map reading. Do a google search, and also try Bivouac.com, and John Scurlock's amazing aerial photo database.
|(Photo Above: A long while ago, navigating the Dais & Franklin Glaciers, in weeks of white.)|
When writing the whiteout plan, you'll need waypoints to input into your field book and GPS, route description to read in the field, compass bearing and back bearing, as well as elevation. Using UTM is much better than Lat/Long as it's much faster and easier to find your location on a paper map. These combined provide you with a step by step walk through of the mountains, and allow you to move your way through the white room without being stopped in your tracks completely, or potentially walking yourself into an accident.
|(Photo Above: Basic white-out plan, which can be even more detailed if you are expecting poor weather. The more detailed the less guess work. - Note UTM above is short hand, and not missing northing.)|
5km/h on good trails
3 km/h on open terrain
1 km/h rough travel
less than 1 km/h in a true whiteout
Preparation for a day trip, or multi-day trip, truly makes for amazing days in the backcountry with really cool loops. By doing this, you are not only prepared for any navigation challenge, but better prepared to deal with every other hazard from glaciation to avalanches as you are forced to consider everything before leaving. Go to new places, practice, and always leave yourself options to work with. Better days skiing, are just more amazing days to think about when your stuck working or on a forced weather day.