In this video, I walk through how I use slope angle overlays and satellite imagery to plan off-trail mountaineering routes. For the purpose of this demonstration, I’m using Gaia GPS, but the technique can be used with any mapping software that includes both slope angle overlays and aerial imagery map layers.

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Overview of the Process

This is a summary of my process for using slope angle overlays and satellite imagery to plan off-trail mountaineering routes:

  1. Draw possible routes between Point A and Point B using “paths of least resistance” using slope angle layers. Pay attention to routes less than 25 degrees in steepness to minimize scrambling and excessive exposure.
  2. Turn on the satellite map layer and change the route points you created in Step 1 to avoid cliff bands, rock scrambles, steep snow, and other terrain that you may not be comfortable with.
  3. Compare your route options in terms of distance and elevation gain (use the elevation profile feature). Evaluate the crux (most difficult) sections of each route. Evaluate the terrain of each route (e.g., tundra, talus, scree, bushwhacking). Pick the route that best meets your objectives – scenery, path of least resistance, etc.

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What’s Your Process?

I’m always curious about how other backcountry adventurers plan off-trail routes with digital mapping software. Please share your process with me in the forums below!

DISCLOSURE (Updated April 9, 2024)

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