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How to Estimate the Difficulty of a Hike

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Learn how to asses the difficulty of your hike before setting off

This second chapter is all about preparing before you set off on a hike

the World -
Voice-over by Dominic di Rollo

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Estimating the Difficulty of a Hike.

In this video, you are going to learn how to assess the level of difficulty for a hike. Calculating the difficulty of an itinerary properly will allow you to choose a hike suited to your experience and fitness level.

The difficulty of a hike depends on 3 main criteria: the distance to be covered, the changes in height and the type of land to cross.

First of all, the distance to be covered. Obviously a trail is more difficult if it is longer, but it is not always easy to work out what the right distance is.

You can use a software program or a map to calculate the distance. As a reminder: if you use a map with a scale of 1:25000 (one to twenty five thousand), 1 cm on the map will represent 2,5000 cm, or 250 m, on the trail.

The main difficulty of a flat trail is the length. As a guide, a beginner can cover 2 to 4 km of a flat trail in 1 hour. The best way to judge your speed is by testing yourself!

We suggest that you follow a trail for 6 to 8 km on flat ground so as to calculate your own speed.

Secondly, the changes in height This is simply the change in altitude due to ascents and descents over the course of the trail. The hike becomes more difficult when there are greater changes in height, which is why in this case the trail should be shorter.

You can calculate the changes in height by studying the contour lines, usually found on all hiking maps.

When in the mountains, the difficulty of a hike should be calculated according to the changes in height and not the distance.

To give you an idea, a beginner can cover a 300 m positive altitude climb (uphill) in about an hour, this is assuming the altitude change does not exceed 600 m.

You are advised to time yourself doing a hike with a positive climb of 500 m so as to better understand how difficult this is and assess your own physical ability.

Thirdly, the type of land. Get informed ahead of time by asking other hikers, using online forums or by looking for photos.

As a guide, a beginner should find a trail with obstacles at ankle height relatively easy, but might have difficulty climbing over Fallen rocks, snow banks or crossing a river.

In short, here are the 3 main criteria to examine so as to evaluate the difficulty of your hike: the distance to be covered, the changes in height and the type of land to cross. Over to you!


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