In detail: tour planning for mountain hikes

    Similar articles

    In detail: tour planning for mountain hikes

    Deficient or even missing tour planning is often the cause of avoidable mountain accidents. A fall in the weather, combined with the onset of darkness, has turned even a light mountain tour into a serious undertaking.

    In this introductory mountain climbing tour article, we discuss how to plan a tour from home, what information to get, how to set up a march table, and how to calculate travel times. We go into the basics of off-road orientation and conclude with equipment tips. In doing so, we orient ourselves to the specifications of the SAC and of Association of Swiss hiking trails, and take a closer look at the individual points.

    The Association of Swiss Trails brings the Theory of mountain hiking on the handy formula:

    PEAK = Planning, einschätzung, AQUIPMENT, Kontrol

    Planning and assessment

    When planning at home, the following points must be taken into account:

    • Type of hike and path categories
    • The chosen area: North or South Alps, West or East? This results in indications of the weather, on huts and shelters, on the rock type, the type and length of the approaches, the water supply and much more.
    • The altitude and the exposure: necessary acclimatization, expected temperatures, wind, solar radiation; North or south side, resulting in sunlight, icing, shadow
    • The weather conditions: current weather conditions and tendency, large-scale weather situation, avalanche situation; The Tour planning in winter requires even more knowledge.
    • Expected difficulties: level of difficulty of the tour, steepness and altitude, key points, variants, alternatives and emergency descent etc.
    • Training state, mountain experience and current condition of the participants. The assessment of the capabilities should be realistic, because excessive demands increase the accident risk enormously
    • The time required: the estimated time required is calculated from the calculated time requirement (see table of operations) with reference to the above points
    • Gear (Clothing, orientation, emergency and safety equipment)

    The necessary basic information is developed from present alpine guides and good maps, Reading the maps and guides should be done with care so that you feel as familiar with the area as you have been there before. Good guides are, for example, the Alpine Club guides, all of which are created according to uniform rules. The reading and interpreting of a guide must be practiced, the transfer of the text to the grounds must sit. Also, reading, interpreting and the correct use of a card, at home and on the road, is important, and should be practiced again and again.

    Of course, in order to plan a tour properly you need all available and above all current information about opening times of the huts, weather, means of transport, route conditions, etc. This information is obtained through Alpine information and tourist offices.

    Alpine weather reports

    Germany (DAV) 09001-295070 DAV mountain weather
    Swiss Alps(Tape) + 41-848-800-162

    In Switzerland: 162
    Meteo Switzerland
    South-Tirol (Tape) +
    France Meteo Chamonix+33-892-680274Meteo Chamonix
    Personal weather advice Innsbruck
    DAV / OeAV (Mon - Sat., 1 pm-6pm)

    Alpine information

    Alpine information of the DAV+49 89 29 49 40
    Alpine safety service of the DAV+49 89 62424393
    Austria: Alpine information of the OeAV+43 512 58 78 28
    South Tyrol: Alpine information of the AVS Information of the DAV+39 471 99 99 5
    France. Chamonix: Office de haute Montagne (OHM)+33 450 53 22 08

    An easy to understand introduction to alpine mountain weather offers this eBook by mountain guide and weatherman Albert Leichtfried. It helps to better understand the relationships of the weather system and implement it for your own tour planning.

    Creation of a marching table

    The best and safest way of home tour planning is to create a marching chart or march sketch.

    In a marching table, prominent points, intermediate destinations, direction information (see compass: march number) and expected march times are entered. When calculating the travel time, proceed as follows: 

    A normal climber copes per hour about 400 meters or 4 kilometers horizontal distance. The map takes the total altitude and the distance, calculates the times and adds to the larger number of half of the smaller number.


    The distance hut - summit is 6 kilometers (= 90 minutes), the difference in altitude 1200 meters (= 180 minutes). So: 180 minutes plus 45 minutes (half of the smaller number) gives 225 minutes. The standard time is 4 hours. For the descent, an altitude of 800 meters per hour is estimated.

    For not very experienced mountaineers, a slightly more generous calculation is recommended: a hiker returns about 300 vertical meters per hour or 500 meters of descent per hour and manages 4 kilometers of horizontal distance.

    Groups are slower, so you should plan more time, as well as buffers for break times and other delays to schedule.


    The basis of any orientation is that you always know where you are currently. The safe handling of map, compass and altimeter is essential for this. Even in times of GPS devices, it is certainly not wrong to acquire basic knowledge of these analog aids - after all, technology can break down or the batteries are simply empty. 


    An exact map is the basis for orientation. The largest possible scale is required for accurate map reading. Normally one uses maps in the scale 1: 25,000, in exceptional cases enough to 1: 50,000. A 1: 50,000 card shows the same cut four times smaller than a 1: 25,000 card. 

    When buying maps, it should be ensured that the contour lines are accurately and clearly marked - reading maps in the mountains means interpreting contour lines. From the contour lines you can read the shape of the terrain, for example, the steepness of a section or flat zones.


    Altimeters are basically air pressure gauges. The altitude changes the air pressure, so the altimeter indicates the changing air pressure. Since the air pressure can change at the same altitude (weather change), the altimeter also functions as a barometer.

    Even cold and heat affects the display of the altimeter. In high heat he indicates less, in the cold greater height. Expensive altimeters have a temperature compensation for this. In order to obtain always meaningful values, altimeters should be calibrated as often as possible, eg at huts or summits whose height is known. This makes it possible to keep the deviations due to temperature and air pressure changes as low as possible.


    The needle of a compass always points to the north, or to the magnetic north pole. Depending on the position, there may be a deviation between magnetic and geographic North Pole. This misalignment can be corrected on most compass models (declination).

    GPS device

    A GPS device enables fast positioning even in poor visibility and provides additional data. From the recording of the route, on a backtrack to mark previously defined points or important marks on the road makes such a device good job. If you decide to, one electronic device Of course, you should always have high-quality replacement batteries with you on the tour.

    Mountaineer Watches

    These watches combine GPS device and altimeter in one watch. Depending on the manufacturer, they almost come from a functional range of a fully grown GPS device. However, due to the limited battery life and the lack of a battery change, you are only suitable for day trips.

    The interaction of map, altimeter and compass (and possibly GPS) allows precise positioning and orientation in the field.


    In addition to the above-mentioned aids for orientation, depending on the planning and assessment of the tour, various items of equipment in the backpack. The Golden Rule it is: as much as necessary, as little as possible!

    • dress: clothing adapted to the respective tour, weather, sun and cold protection. Even in summer it can come to weather reversals and cold spells!
    • Footwear: for the tour suitable footwear
    • emergency kit: Taschenapotheke, Rescue blanket and charged cellphone
    • Provisions: provisions and water, a few energy bars or gels can help with a "mid-low"


    With the tour start also the so-called "rolling planning". The assumptions made in the planning are constantly with the actual circumstances, for example with the current weather, adjusted and checked. From this comparison then consequences are drawn. 

    Fatigue impairs mental and physical performance, coordination and surefootedness. Regular breaks, eating and drinking, a portion of fast carbohydrates in the form of an energy bar or gel before a difficult period may cause (minor) miracles.

    The Tour planning in winter has very special requirements.

    Additions, improvements or suggestions you can write in the comments!

    Recommended literature:



    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment is processed .





    Ausrüstung für Klettern, Bergsport und Outdoor bei kaufen