It’s a Long Way to the Top if You’re Taking it Slow-wowoh
Have you ever wondered about those often faint lines on a map that seem to go around in circles and weave in and out along rivers?
Have you ever wanted to read them like a pro?
I’ll be doing a longer blog shortly. But, for now, this may be enough.
The lines on the maps mean something
These lines are called contour lines and they simply join points on a map (representing points on the ground) that are at the same height above sea level.
That’s it really. But, they do tell a much bigger story.
The one big thing they tell us is how steep the rise or descent is on that part of the ground.
To understand this, think of a stepladder, some stairs and a ramp.
To climb say 1 metre on a step ladder, you don’t travel very far in actual distance – perhaps 0.25 metres. To climb 1 metre up a flight of stairs you’d travel a bit over 1.5 metres in distance. To climb 1 metre up a ramp you may need to travel about 8 metres. Of course, if you’re on the flat, you could walk all day and not climb in height.
In each case the 1 metre contour line would be seen as the line at the top rung, tread or top of the ramp – and the contour interval as the distance between the ground height and that line.
In this way, the closer the contour lines are (ie closer contour intervals), the steeper the climb. But, it’s all relevant.
Close lines on the map that disappear
Just watch out where the lines disappear in preference to only showing every fifth or so – this is where it’s too steep to show all the intermediate lines.
Oh, and apologies to AC/DC.
So please, keep safe and keep going forward – looking for the climb that suits you. I know many climbers/hikers/travellers may not pay attention to the details on these maps, so it is here I caution you to educate yourself. My own keen interest in this area has led me to pass on my knowledge of map reading to all those who wish to improve their own knowledge. Send me a line if you want more specific questions on map reading addressed.
For more information on how to read a map with contour lines head to How to read contour lines.