Our Itinerary Process
Of course, I use BaseCamp for interfacing with my GPS, but way before then I slice and dice using the wonderful RouteConverter (free software, but well worth a donation). The basic process is to:
- Start at the beginning
- Determine the end of the next section in the GPS file, which is essentially the next bit where the 'type of track' and 'difficulty' is the same throughout.
- Transfer the length, ascent and descent to the spreadsheet.
- In the spreadsheet add the type of track: somewhere between 'No Track' to 'Road/Paved' and difficulty ('Very Hard' to 'Easy'); this will calculate the average walking speed and therefore our arrival time based on many years of previous hiking statistics.
- Delete that section from the GPX file.
- Wash and repeat…
Once the GPX file is empty the Itinerary base is complete, and the total walking time is set (the calculation also includes Pack weight, but that becomes more realistic when the Menu and Food sheets are complete)… in fact the spreadsheet will display the itinerary at this point as one long walk with no breaks or sleeps, but the walking time will be accurate (except it could never be done).
The first adjustment is to add the over-nights and breaks. This is fairly coarse at this stage, as the aim is just to get the days working so that we're happy with the overall progress through the walk. Generally when I'm adding the breaks and over-nights, I'll need to go back and adjust some sections, trialling longer or shorter days. The spreadsheet is perfect for this, as it adjusts the aggregated totals automatically for each day. This stops me getting to the end and realising that I've got a 40km day sitting there that I didn't know about.
The original requirement for the spreadsheet was to prove to myself that I wasn't taking Sandi out anywhere we couldn't achieve.
Once the Itinerary has got to this point, the Food can be put in, which will also impact Food Drops that will in turn impact Pack weights and modify the walking times. So, how's The Heysen looking?
Our Heysen Trail 2021
As you'll see below, Our Itinerary has got us doing 1,149 km, over 65 days, ascending 26,075 metres and descending 25,975 metres during 389 hours of walking. Mount Everest is 8,848.86 metres, in case you were wondering, and apparently takes a similar time: 60-65 days.
The Itinerary is getting quite mature now, and I don't expect it to change too much, but a little tweaking almost always happens up to departure time (and of course, the itinerary can change quite a bit during the hike for unforeseen circumstances). Once the Itinerary is deemed not going to change too much, the GPS file can start its journey to becoming our GPS Route for the walk (I'll detail this later).
Some of the tweaking / preparation we're doing at the moment is reading through Walkers Follow Fence (which we are very much enjoying). We're taking notes or making adjustments if we think they are required. Richard reflected that:
On my other long hikes I almost invariably walked long days and then mixed in several rest days. This time I stopped early many times (although there were also some long days) and only had one rest day. It seems that approach worked better for me…
I very much took that to heart and went back and added many early days and removed some Rest Days, which changed the hike from 58 days to 65 days. One of our previous issues with long hikes is having them too strictly book-ended, often because of leave requirements and/or interstate travel. We walked The Bibbulmun with very little flexibility built in to the Itinerary, and we've tried ever since to ensure that the itinerary allows easily for ad hoc on track modifications. I think we've been getting better at that incrementally… I'm a little nervous that our Itinerary is too loose, but the proof will be in the pudding.
Certainly there is a lot of room for 'catching up' by doing multiple short days in a single day (what we called "double-hutting" on the Bibbulmun) and extending a stay if required to slow us down. One of the aspects of this hike that initially escaped me, was how to work in all the required booked accommodation. I mean, how do you say with any certainty that you're going to be anywhere on a particular day two months in advance?
Richard's approach was just to camp wherever he got to and not in the Forestry Huts (that require booking now). He also didn't do any pre-packaged Food Drops, but resupplied in the many towns along the way. Interestingly, we did wonder about doing The Bibbulmun that way, if we did it again; but to be honest, we more prefer to have these things worked out. That's probably a result of our first Great North Walk hike, where we resupplied in the track towns, to less than optimum results. If I remember correctly, the AA batteries we purchased for the camera were of consistently poor quality that they only lasted a short period of time. The photographic record is important to us, so having times when it was not possible was definitely not what we wanted.
The following is based directly on the 2020-08-17 release of the GPX files from The Heysen Friends. The Day Rate is a simple calculation based on Day Length [km], Ascent & Descent [m] and Pack Weight [kg] – it's only an indication, as any day on a hike can feel like the worst day (sometimes for no apparent reason), and some days can just disappear when you're expecting great pain… but having said that, I get great pleasure seeing how close the spreadsheet calculation is (I like to tell the story of one fellow on The Bibbulmun Track who was incredulous that we could say we'd arrive at 15:50 in 7 weeks time. He wanted to bet that we wouldn't, but we did turn up 10 minutes early on the said day. He'd conveniently forgotten about the bet though, but that did not diminish my satisfaction and amazement).
Next taskOur Menu
where we start the definition of our meals.