Friday, June 7, 2013

Time Control Plans for Long Climbs

While we’re out here in the Tetons, one of the objectives I hope to attempt is the Cathedral Traverse, which involves successive climbs of Teewinot Mountain, Mount Owen, and the Grand Teton.  When undertaking such a large objective, it can be useful in the planning process to have some means of estimating the time required for the objective.  In guiding we call this the time control plan, and the Munter touring plan is one system commonly used for time control.

To use the Munter touring plan, the entire objective (approach, climb, descent) must first be broken down into “units,” where 1 unit is equivalent to either 1km of ground distance or 100m of vertical gain/loss.  After breaking the objective down into these units, the uphill or traversing units (ground distance and vertical gain) are divided by 4.  The downhill units are divided by 6 to 10, depending on the method of travel.  Divide by 6 for technical descent (rappelling, complex route finding, significant downclimbing), divide by 8 for straightforward descent (walking on a trail), divide by 10 for ski travel.  Total the units after dividing by the uphill/downhill factors.

From the resulting units, multiply by 60 to determine the travel time required in minutes.  For any pitched out, 5th class climbing, allow 45 minutes per pitch and do not count the vertical gain from the climbing with the other uphill units.  Add this to the total time.  Finally, add 10 minutes for every hour of travel to account for breaks.  The resulting time should be a pretty close estimate of how long you’ll be in the backcountry.

Our intended route on the Cathedral Traverse in blue with retreat options shown in red.
For example, on the Cathedral Traverse, we will cover about 5 “uphill” miles with 8800 feet of elevation change (some is downhill on traverses), 9 “downhill” miles with 6100 feet of elevation change, and about 14 pitches of climbing.  In metric, this is 8km/2667m up and 14.4km/1848m down and totals 8 + 26.67 = 34.67 units up and 14.4 + 18.48 = 32.88 units down.  34.67 / 4 = 8.6675 and 32.88 / 8 = 4.11, yielding 12.7775 total units.  12.7775 x 60 is approximately 767 minutes of travel, or 12:47.  14 pitches of climbing at 45 minutes each gives 10:30 for pitched climbing, or 23:17 total.  Adding breaks at 10 minutes per hour of travel brings adds another 230 minutes (3:50) to the time, for a grand total of time of 27 hours, 7 minutes.  As Ron and I are both fit, experienced climbers, we are hoping to shave a few hours from this estimate and complete the objective in one (very long) day.

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