Planning your Route

Planning your Route

Questions and actions for planning a route appropriate to the group, weather and other factors to be considered.

Planning your Route 

The Route

Quite possibly the most important part of your day is the route itself, after all, that’s why you’re going out in the first place!

It is not uncommon for people to bite off more than they can chew in respect of the chosen route, and this is more common with people who are new to the hills or perhaps still learning the ropes. The advice in this section will give some questions and answers that will help you validate whether your intended route is appropriate for you and your group, where applicable.

The Weather


Further Questions &Considerations

What is the weather forecast for the day and area in which you’ll be walking?

  • Clearly the weather can have an effect on your day and should be a factor in your route planning. Rain itself isn’t a reason to prevent a walk (unless forecast to be torrential), but the combination of sustained rain, cool temperatures and wind, are ingredients for hypothermia. Recent snowfall and other factors can be an increased avalanche risk

Adjust your route if windy and planning on walking over a ridge

  • Exposed ridges and wind don’t generally mix, and it’s better to save the ridge for a better day that risk getting blown off. It happens.


The Route

What is your intended route?

  • Have you walked the route before? If so, how recently?
  • Do you have a guide book for the route? There could be some good tips about intended direction of travel or places of interest en route

What is the distance of the route?

  • How many miles/KM will you walk?
  • Are you all fit enough to cover that distance?
  • Are you recovering from a cold or other illness?
  • These factors will detrimentally affect your stamina


What is the maximum height that you will gain?

  • As height increases, the air pressure drops, and as air pressure drops so does the temperature


How steep is the ground at its steepest?

  • Steep ground will slow down most people, but apart from adding time to the walk, there are other dangers. 
  • Check that your route does not include negotiating a scree slope


Are there any other hazards to consider?

  • Are there any rivers to cross? Is there a bridge at each crossing, or are you sure that the water will be at a safe level? How can you be sure?
  • Will you have to negotiate bogs? After heavy rain in particular, bogs will slow you down at best, or present a hazard to avoid if possible.
  • Do you plan to traverse any mountain ridges (including popular routes such as Crib Goch, Striding Edge, Swirral Edge & Sharp Edge)? Some people lack the required balance and can freak out at the thought of a long drop.

What are the escape routes?

  • Escape routes are a means by which you can cut your route short if required, due to lack of progress or emergency. Plan for these should you be delayed en route.


Time Estimates

Allow extra time if walking into the wind

  • The weather forecast will show a wind direction, and if the wind is strong and against you it’ll slow you down.


What time does the sun rise and set?

  • make a note of sun rise & sunset times on your route card - many weather sites show sunrise & sunset times
  • This tells you the maximum daylight available, if you set off walking at sunrise. It’s light approx 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset.

At what time will you be ready to walk?


  • Allow a sensible time for travel from your start destination, together with an amount of time for getting ready before the walk. This is the time at which you will start walking.
  • Sunset minus your walking start time is the real amount of daylight that you’ll have for your walk. Is that period of time enough?


How many hours will the route take to complete?

  • Given the distance and height gained, how many hours will it take to complete the route, including rest stops?  (Allow for approx 10 minutes rest per hour, as a rule of thumb.)
  • Allow extra time for height gained. Typically, allow between 30 and 60 additional minutes for every 300m or 1,000ft gained. More here


What is a sensible time by which you should have reached various key points of the route?

  • Plan timings and be realistic about adjustments to the walk that may be required if you’re falling behind schedule. See detailed planning


How fit are others in the group and is the intended route within their capabilities?

  • Pace on the day will be set by the slowest person, so make sure that people know what's in store and be prepared to change plans if some decide it's not within their ability. Ideally make such enquiries before the day
  • If there is any scrambling on the route, be certain that everyone is aware and prepared. Don’t let it be a shock to anyone, as some people suffer from vertigo and they may not tell you until the scramble


Other Factors

Do you have an appropriate Ordnance Survey, Harvey’s or equivalent cartographic map of the whole intended route?

  • Always take a map, even if you have a good guidebook that explains the route. EVEN IF YOU HAVE A GPS RECEIVER WITH YOU.
  • If your route goes close to the edge of one map, it’s a good idea to also take with you the adjoining map, just in case you go off course or need to descend into another valley in an emergency situation



Do you have to cross any rivers (without bridges)?

  • Bear in mind that a sudden downpour could turn a small stream into a raging un-crossable torrent. Check your route in detail to ensure that you cross streams/burns & rivers use bridges where possible, and if the forecast is for heavy rain, you adjust your route accordingly to cross streams high up where possible. Walking poles can come into their own when crossing streams/burns & rivers.


Are there any known magnetic anomalies on your planned route?

  • know where they are any magnetic anomalies preferably have a GPS unit as a back-up navigation aid should you need close navigation in the vicinity of the magnetic anomaly

Do you have a right to walk your intended route?

  • What is the access situation? Are there public rights of way, open access land/right to road, or are you relying on landowner's consent?