Little Po, who is leading a winter-camping/peak-bagging mission to the Catskills this weekend, offers an indepth look at taking a group in to the woods. One of the questions she ask herself: how hard is the hike?
The difficulty of the trip involves these three factors — distance, terrain, elevation change ñ and as well some unseen ones. It is better to think of this issue in parallel with time management: How much time do we want to spend on trail everyday?
A rule of thumb says this: start with 2 miles per hour and add another hour for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain and another 0.5 hour for every 1,000 feet of elevation loss. This equation works fine in 3 seasons but is a big underestimation in winter time. In winter, be flexible; give yourself more time. It’s much better to arrive at the campsite much earlier than have to hike in the dark.
I’d never heard that rule of thumb but it makes sense. She has tons more things to consider (so many, in fact, that you might consider letting somebody else lead the expedition).
That’s sounds like a variation on Naismith’s Rule, which originally assumed 3 miles per hour, plus .5 hour per 1000 feet up, with no change for descents. Mr. Naismith was a bit of an optimist.