Wednesday, January 15, 2014

GuidePace - The App

the basics

Time planning is an essential skill in the mountains, whether you're alpine climbing, ski mountaineering, backpacking or hunting.  When headed into familiar territory, it's easy; but when you're headed somewhere new, the GuidePace app will help you base your time plan in reality.

GuidePace consists of three calculators for estimating travel time in different types of terrain.  They are outlined in the sections below.  You enter a rate, distance and elevation change, and it will estimate your travel time.  The rate you specify is important, and it will depend on a variety of factors, including the characteristics of the terrain, party fitness and method of travel.  Check out the 'about' section for each page to learn more about rates - you can access it by clicking on the book icon in the top right corner.  As you gain experience using these systems, you'll begin to learn what to expect of yourself, and your time plans will become more accurate.

munter system  ~  class 1, 2 terrain  ~  hiking, skiing

Swiss guide Werner Munter developed the "Munter Method of Time Calculation" to estimate time for mountain travel in low angle terrain.  It is particularly useful for developing tour plans and estimating approach times for alpine climbing, mountaineering and backcountry skiing objectives.  The equation is as follows, with time in hours, distance in kilometers and elevation in meters:

time = (distance + elevation/100) / rate

Elevation change is considered as an absolute value.  When traveling downhill a higher rate should be used, but greater elevation change will still result in greater travel time, as is the case in the field.  Some typical, moderate rates:
uphill travel on foot or skis  -  4
flat or downhill on foot  -  6
downhill on skis  -  10
bushwhacking  -  2

Photo:  Jason Killgore, Aspen hut touring

Photo:  Josh Dulberger, Cirque of the Towers, WY

chauvin system  ~  class 3, 4  terrain  ~  scrambling, snow climbing

American mountain guide Marc Chavin has developed the a system for estimated travel time in 3rd and 4th class terrain.  It is also useful in other terrain with indistinct pitches, such as extended snow climbing.

His approach is to convert distance and elevation gain into an equivalent number of 60-meter pitches.  Sixty meters is the current standard length for a climbing rope.  Since most climbers are intimately familiar with this distance, they will find it easier to estimate the amount of time required for a single pitch than for the climb as a whole.

The equation is as follows, with time in hours, distance and elevation in meters, and rate in minutes per 60m pitch:

time = (distance + elevation) x rate

Typical rates in this type of terrain are 10-30 min/60m pitch.

Photo:  Silas Rossi, Guiding the West Ridge of Forbidden, North Cascades

Photo:  Becky Burk, Sundance Mountain, RMNP

technical system  ~  class 5 terrain  ~  rock, ice & mixed climbing

Roped climbing in technical terrain is typically broken up into pitches, which are up to one rope-length long.  A typical pitch may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on the difficulty of the terrain and skill of the party.  The equation used by this calculator is simply:

time = pitches x rate

Technical decent times can also be estimated by substituting number of pitches for number of rappels.

The Dangler, Shawangunks

Photo:  Chris Sheridan, Cody, WY

tour planning / putting it all together

Many times you'll encounter a variety of terrain on a single trip; this is where it is useful to make a tour plan.  Break the trip up into legs, and then use GuidePace to estimate the time required for each leg!


  1. Looks like a great tool. Looking forward to the Android version!

  2. Thanks Richard. I developed the app using a framework called PhoneGap, which is meant to simplify converting apps between platforms -- so all I have to do is get around to it! Right now I'm thinking that it will be sometime in late spring or summer of this year.

    1. any idea as to when you'll have a 64bit app for the IOS system? I love this app, but can't currently run it with the newest version of IOS installed.

    2. Hey CBclimber, Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I've been trying not to fix what isn't broken, but it appears that the time has come! I'm psyched you like the app. Stay tuned for an update. Cheers, Chris

  3. Hi! I've been looking at different time estimation tools for varying terrain, and this has been very helpful. One question: Do you have references to where you got the Munter & Chauvin Formulas? The way you presented the Chauvin Formula seems off... For example, if my "leg" is 100m horizontal and 100m vertical, and I can navigate the terrain at 15 minutes per 60m, your formula gives 3,000 hours.

    1. Hi. Thanks for the note. I'm glad that you've found this info useful!

      I don't have specific references to provide you with beyond what is presented here. I learned about both of these methods during my training with the American Mountain Guide Association. The Munter Method is well-known, and described in a variety of online and print sources. The original reference would probably be in German.

      I think you're running into problems with units in your calculation. It should look like this:
      (100m + 100m) x (15 minutes / 60m) = 50 minutes


  4. Any thoughts on any existing gps tracking apps that would allow display of muenter rate or creating a custom display? Or have you thought about creating that functionality in your app? I've been dialing in my rates for ski touring and mountain running but it is alot of post activity Google Earth distance /time/elevation calculations and it would be amazing to watch the rate on the fly. My custom rates account for slope grade, trail type, breaking trail etc) and I've been able to successfully predict trip times down to 5 to 10 min over 4 to 8 hours. Thanks for your took!

  5. Hey Aaron, Thanks for another note. It's cool to hear about your data 'analysis'. I've thought about that sort of thing myself, but never got around to pursuing it. I'd be interested to learn more about the kind of correlations you're developing.

    As far as real-time Munter rate calculation, I don't know of any smartphone apps that do it, but I did write one for the Suunto Ambit3 watch. This link should take you to it: