Tag Archives: trip_intentions

Bushwalking Navigation | A Route Plan Workflow

How should I begin my route plan for a bushwalk? What resources are there available on the web? Are there any time savers? How do I  keep others in my group informed and allow active participation in the decision making? How do I take my route plan with me and share it with others in my group? Who should I tell about my route plan? Do I need an escape plan?


A route plan is an essential part of any walk for three reasons; firstly as a way of easily checking whether the walk you have planned is too easy or too difficult in the time you have allowed, secondly as a way of improving the safety of your walk by sharing the route with others in your group, police, park rangers and friends and finally as a practical navigation aid.

Fortunately, few of us need to navigate in a whiteout, but if we do, a route plan which gives the distance and bearing of each leg and has chosen prominent waypoints as end points is an essential safety component.

An Example of  a Route Plan for Skiing and Climbing

Despite the importance of the route plan as a planning requirement, route plans are made to be broken and can become a liability if they are adhered to despite the weather, condition of the group and terrain. A good leader must be willing to vary the route plan to suit the circumstances!

A good route plan depends on the quality of the waypoints it uses, the selection of which needs to be based on sound navigational techniques some of which are listed  below. A waypoint which can only be found with a GPS is useless if your GPS fails and it will!.

Aiming Off

  • Used to find an objective on a feature which is straight eg river, mountain ridge, road
    • Deliberately aim to strike the feature 10 ° to right or left of feature and then turn along feature to reach objective (also called Stefansson method or intentional error)

    Attack Points:

    • A feature which is near but much easier to find than your objective.

    Catching Features:

    • Prominent features which are beyond your objective but can act as safety net. 
    • A bearing on prominent feature at 90 deg to direction of travel can be used.


    • Definite features which are roughly aligned with direction of travel and  which make navigation easier.
    • Don’t use creeks or gullies but may run parallel to them.

    In Poor Visibility:

    • Stick to well defined features or proceed from one well defined feature to another. 
    • Navigator 3-4 places from front, with party in single file.
    • In snow, use a cord 50m long and have scout sweep in an arc until next pole found.


    • A pace is the distance between each right foot hitting ground.
    • For 1.8m person, with pack, ≈ 1.5m ie 660 paces to 1km.


    • Keep navigation legs short, moving from one identifiable point to the next, even if this involves a detour.
    • Align straight edge of compass with 2 features, with arrow pointing in the intended direction.
    • Rotate bezel until parallel lines on its base align with grid lines.
    • To correct for magnetic deviation, rotate bezel clockwise (MGA: grid to magnetic subtract).
    • Set out in direction of arrow with needle centred on its mark.

    Back Bearings

    • Used to see if you have deviated from the intended path.
    • Face starting point.
    • Check that south end of needle is centred on mark.

    Transect Bearings

    • Useful to locate exact position on a handrail.
    • Identify a feature which is marked on your map then take a bearing on this feature.
    • Convert magnetic to grid by adding the magnetic deviation.
    • Rotate bezel anticlockwise.
    • Place compass on map with arrow on base pointing towards the identifiable feature.
    • Rotate whole compass until the parallel lines of bezel align with grid lines.
    • Draw a line back using the edge of the compass until it intersects the handrail.
    • Choose a feature which is as close as possible to reduce error.


    • Used to describe process of drawing three intersecting transect bearings to find your present location.
    • Select features which are at a maximum angle to each other. eg 120 deg

    Route Planning Software

    As a Mac user, I have only used the excellent program MacGPS Pro which I have had and regularly updated for many years. Australian PC users have OziExplorer which is also excellent and can be run on a Mac very successfully if you install Windows. If you have an iPhone you have other alternatives depending on your country; Australian’s have Bit Map and Memory – Map, New Zealanders Map App NZ and Memory – Map, the British National Geographics Topo Maps. All of these allow you to rapidly plan a route by simply clicking waypoints  which are linked together and can then be uploaded to your GPS.

    The other big advantage of mapping software is that you can zoom in at a magnification that you would need a hand lens to view on your 1:50K topo paper map. With just one click, you have  7 figure eastings and northings for each waypoint along with the map zone.  Distances and bearings, “as the crow flies”, can be measured by two clicks. Route elevations can be plotted with a few clicks.

    Once you have the route planned you can export it as a .kml file which can be loaded into mapping software such as that found on your iPhone, Google maps or Google Earth for others in your group to view. Alternatively you can export the waypoints as a spreadsheet which can be printed as part of your trip intentions form which you will give to your designated emergency contact and to the local ranger or police station or uploaded to Google docs for everyone in your group to view. Uploading to Google docs encourages participation in the planning process and a sharing of ideas.

    Escape Routes

    These are the routes you will take back to safety if anything prevents your progress to your destination. This could be an injury, the weather, too slow progress or physical blocking of your route by a landslide, avalanche, bushfire or flooded river. These should appear on the back of your route plan and be given to everyone who gets your route plan. Their format is identical to that used in your route plan. While some escape routes can be anticipated and planned in advance eg if a river you have to cross is flooded, others such as following an injury can’t easily be planned. Of course, if you have a PLB or a mobile and reception, then in case of life threatening injury you can always call for help rather than follow an escape route.

    Web Resources

    Online Walk Time Calculator: use this online trip calculator to work out your estimated walk times for your route plan, using Naismith’s Rule and Tranter’s corrections for fitness.
    Naismith’s Rule
    Online Route card  From 1st Kirklevington Scouts
          Automatically calculates times based upon inputted speeds and climbs.
    Blank Route Card
    Escape Route Template
    What is a Route Card
    Related Posts

    Online Walk Time Calculator
    Bushwalking Navigation
    Mapping Software

    Creative Commons License This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


    Bushwalking in the Vulkathunha – Gammon Ranges, South Australia | Pt 1 Trip Planning Resources

    Where are the Gammons? Why visit the Gammons? When is the best time to visit the Gammons and how long do you need? What level of experience do you need and does it require any special planning and equipment because of its remoteness? What resources are available to help you plan, appreciate and enjoy what you see?

    UPDATE: there has been a mouse plague in the Gammons (April -? 2011) and I would advise taking your tent inner, storing food outside your tent in air tight bags and hanging your food out of reach.

    Bushwalking, Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park ……..in brief

    Gammon Ranges 

    Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park is an arid wilderness of spectacular rugged ranges and deep gorges 400 km N of Port Augusta off the Copley-Balcanoona Rd. The park has important cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people who are the traditional custodians of the region. There are several access points, both for 2WD and 4WD vehicles, with the heart of the park offering challenging wilderness bushwalking experiences. The park includes limited caravan sites, bush camping, 4WD touring tracks and several accommodation options. Bookings are essential for hut accommodation and shearers’ quarters. The park adjoins Lake Frome Regional Reserve and shares a boundary with Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges Traditional Owners and DEH co-manage the park. ” (DENR )

    Google Aerial view of the Gammons

    View Larger Map


     The last 100 km is largely over dirt roads, which can sometimes be badly corrugated. If you wish to set up a base camp at Grindell Hut inside the Park, I recommend that you use a 4WD as the tracks are sometimes sandy and the wheel ruts can be deep. Many conventional cars will not have sufficient ground clearance. Make sure you carry essential spare parts for your vehicle and read the RAA Outback Driving booklet. 

    Up-to-date road conditions can be checked via the Far Northern and Western Areas road condition hotline – 1300 361 033 or by visiting http://www.dtei.sa.gov.au. Alternatively call the Desert Parks information line on 1800 816 078.

    Google Map Directions Adelaide to Copley (just north of Leigh Creek)
    SA Outback Fuel Chart
    Google Map Directions Adelaide to Copley( just north of Leigh Creek)
    Google Maps Copley, Vulkathuna – Gammon Ranges Nat Pk and Arkaroola Village

    Outback Driving (RAA)


    If you are planning a trip to northern SA (eg the Gammons) check the forecast carefully as the temperature is often in the high twenties or low thirties, when it is in the high teens in Adelaide. My experience is that it is often 5 -10 degrees warmer than Adelaide but colder at night. 

    Check the Weatherzone climate statistics for Arkarooola  , the nearest weather station or visit the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary’s Climate Information page which compares the climate with other capital cities.

    Long term averages show May to early September to be the  best from a temperature perspective (mean max 19-20 deg C). Mean minimum temperatures are 3-7 deg C, (lightweight sleeping bag weather). Days of rain 3, mean rain 6-10 mm (you may even risk just a fly depending on the month)

    Further north in the Gammons, water can also be short supply after six months with little rain. A spring/early summer trip is risky as most rain falls in December-March as the tail ends of monsoons sweep down SE from the Kimberley and most will have gone by then.

    Fire Bans

    All wood fires or solid fuel fires are prohibited from 1 November 2010 to 31 March 2011. Gas fires are permitted other than on days of total fire ban. For further information, please contact the Port Augusta Regional Office (08) 8648 5300, the Wilpena Visitor Centre (08) 8648 0048 or the CFS Fire Bans Hotline 1300 362 361.  Timely reminder of fire restrictions in parks (DENR 103kb pdf)

    Time Required

    The Vulkathuna – Gammon Ranges are a long drive of 8 – 9 hours from Adelaide, over unsealed roads from Copley, which can be badly corrugated depending on how recently they have been graded. For most people, the two days of travel encourages you to spend a minimum of  3-5 days in the Gammons, including some time at the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and the Paralana Hot Springs which are a short drive away. If you based yourself at Grindell Hut within the Park, then  it would be possible to spend a whole week in the Park and then at least another three days at Arkaroola.

    Panorama of Grindell’s Hut, showing the hut and the landscape surrounding it. (Peter Neaum 2009-09-10)

    Bushwalking Experience Level

    The Gammons are remote with the nearest major town, Leigh Creek, a hundred and thirty kilometres away to the west, which takes about 2-4 hours, depending on the state of the road. In addition to the remoteness, water supplies are unpredictable, the temperatures much higher than Adelaide and the terrain rugged, with significant exposure at times, when climbing the waterfalls. A high level of navigation skill, using both map and compass and GPS, is required as most of the walking trails are off-track with no signage and no trail markers. This Park is designated as being unsuitable for beginning bushwalkers, with experience of multi-day hikes, the ability to carry heavy loads and self-sufficiency in terms of first aid and training a necessary requirement. The carrying of an emergency beacon (PLB), GPS, relevant maps, mobile phone and even a UHF radio in case of emergency communication with nearby stations is advised. Don’t forget to leave your trip intentions form with the Ranger at Balcanoona.

    Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Outback South Australia 4wd  Tracks and Repeaters Brochure  (5.5Mb, pdf)

    Department Environment and Natural Resources

    Park Passes
    Park Closures
    Trip Intentions Form (323kb pdf)
    Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park (647kb pdf)
    Wildlife of the Desert Parks (419kb pdf)
    Balcanoona Shearer’s Quarters Booking Information (145kb pdf)
    SA National Parks Guide – Flinders Ranges and Outback Region (816kb pdf)
    Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park Weetootla Hike Network brochure (686kb pdf)


     John Chapman’s Gammon Ranges


    Maps: 1:50,000 Topographic Illinawortina, Nepabunna, Serle, Angepena
    Northern Flinders Ranges (1.4MB pdf)
    South Australian Outback (1.2MB pdf)
    The Map Shop 
    Map index:  Arkarooola – Gammon Ranges – Yudnamutana – Farina
    Map Index:  North Flinders – Wilpena – Blinman – Leigh Creek – Balcanoona
    RAA Flinders Ranges & Outback Maps 

    Further Reading 


    South Australia: Vulkathana – Gammon Ranges (ABC, Program One: 29 December 2003 )
    The Grindell Murder Case (Flinders Ranges Research)
    Gammon Ranges Bunyip Chasm (ExplorOz)
    Grindell Hut ( ExplorOz)
    Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park (Wikipedia)
    Department of Environment and Natural Resources Search Results| Gammons
    Biological Survey of the North West Flinders Ranges (near Leigh Creek) (4.48mb pdf)
    Gammon Ranges National Park Access Guide and Newsletter 2006 Autumn Edition (SA Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs Inc) (149kb pdf)
    Arkarola Wilderness Sanctuary Activities (nearby tourist accommodation)


    Gammon Ranges (Flikr) 

    Scientific Expeditions Group (SEG)

    Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges Scientific Project (VGRaSP)
    Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges Scientific Project | General Description (VGRaSP 118Kb pdf)
    Analysis of Rainfall in the Gammon Ranges of South Australia 1992 – 2002  (1.7Mb pdf SEG)
    The Gammon Ranges Project – Monitoring in a Remote Area D.J. Kemp1, C.J. Wright and S.A. Jewell Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (pdf,338Kb)


    C. Warren Bonython. Walking the Flinders Ranges. Adelaide: Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, 2000.

    The story of Warren Bonython’s walk from the Crystal Brook in the south to Mt Hopeless in the north.  xiii, 231 p. [32] p. of plates :bill. (some col.) ; 24 cm. 

    Adrian Heard. A Walking Guide to the Northern Flinders Ranges. State Publishing South Australia, 1990.

    An excellent book, describing 3 circuit walks of around one week’s length in the Gammon Ranges and briefer notes to the Arkaroola Sanctuary area. Recommended if you are planning a long walk in the Gammon Ranges. Probably out of print, price unknown.

    John Chapman  Bushwalking In Australia, 4th edition 2003

    320 pages, A5 in size – full colour throughout, 181 colour photographs, 56 colour topographic maps, 

    Thomas, Tyrone 50 walks in South Australia Hill of Content, 1992

    Paperback, 168 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps, 180mm x 120mm x 11mm. The Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island are featured in the walks over terrain ranging from coastal scrub to mountains and arid desert. ISBN: 9780855722111

    Barker, Susan and McCaskill, Murray (Eds) Explore The Flinders Ranges RGSSA Adelaide 2005

    A ‘must have’ for all travellers and admirers of the Flinders Ranges.  Recommended by tourist authorities; ideal for tourism studies and school projects.

    Osterstock, Alan Time: in the Flinders Ranges. Austaprint,1970

    56 pages, A5 in size, 8 colour photos. Covers the geology and history of the Flinders Ranges.

    Osterstock, Alan The Flinders in Flower. Austaprint,1975

    53 pages, A5 in size, 25 colour photos. Describes 27 of the most common flowers of the Flinders Ranges.

    Corbett, David A Field Guide to the Flinders Ranges Rigby, 1980

    A field guide to the plants, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, fishes, frogs, rock types, landforms and a brief history.

    Pedler, Rosemary Plant Identikit: Wildflowers of the Northern Flinders Ranges  Rosemary Pedler1994

    This pocket size booklet describes, with accompanying colour sketches, 70 of the most common plants of the northern Flinders Ranges

    M. Davies,  C.R. Twidale, M. J Tyler Natural History of the Flinders Ranges Royal Society of South Australia Inc 1996

    This 208 page A5 book describes the history of settlement and exploration, the geology and minerals, fossils, landforms, climate, soils, vegetation, aquatic life,invertebrates, mammals, birds, reptile and amphibians and aboriginal people . It is well illustrated with B&W photos, graphs, tables, maps and has an extensive reference list

    Thomas, Tyrone 50 walks in South Australia Hill of Content, 1992

    168 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 18 cm.  ISBN     0855722118 (pbk.) : Includes index.
    Subjects     Hiking – South Australia – Guidebooks.  |  Walking – South Australia – Guidebooks.  |  South Australia – Guidebooks.

    Morrison, RGB  A Field guide to the Tracks and Traces of Australian Mammals Rigby 1981

    This unique 198 page field guide contains a large number of B&W photos of tracks, diggings, droppings & scats and bones and skulls of Australian animals which helps with identification. [ISBN 0 7270 1489 7

    Bonney, Neville & Annie Reid Plant Identikit Common Plants of the Flinders Ranges Neville Bonney1993 [ISBN 0 646 15406 0]

    This pocket size booklet describes, with accompanying colour sketches, 51 of the most common plants of the Flinders Ranges, including the Gammon Ranges National Park

      Creative Commons License This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Bushwalking Trip Plan | Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Pt 1

    How should I plan a bushwalk in NZ? What are the logistics of such a trip from Australia and within NZ? What maps do I need? Can I upload them to my GPS? What are the risk management requirements of the Routeburn Track ? What is the weather likely to be in November? What special equipment will I need? To whom do I send my trip intentions form, if they are needed? Do I need a permit, and if so from whom? How do I obtain stove fuel or is it provided? Are there huts which I can use or will I need a tent? What emergency communications are available? What is special about the flora and fauna of the area and what field guides should I take? What are the photographic features? How much will it cost?

    Invitation to Contribute

    I have just started planning a week long trip to the Routeburn Track, in the South Island of New Zealand in November 2011 and thought I would share the process with you as it evolves.  This may not be the way you would do it, and if we differ,  I would encourage you to make alternative suggestions. I will be planning the walk on the basis that it will be independently walked by two experienced, fit bushwalkers, who will share equipment.

    The questions listed above came randomly to mind and will all need to be answered before I leave. You may have some other questions you would like answered, if you are intending to do the same trip, or think I have left out and need to add. Your suggestions will be incorporated.

    As the planning is a work in progress, it may need to be amended as I progress or receive better advice from others. I am particularly seeking wisdom from those who have walked the track recently and will incorporate your advice with appropriate acknowledgement.

    Sequence of planning | Where should I start?

    I guess for most people, with limited holidays, the suitability of the time of the year and duration needed are actually the critical  factors, followed closely by the cost.

    • Can I do this trip in November? 
    • How long do I need?
    • Can I afford the trip?

    There are four good places to start  for this sort of general information:

    • commercial tramping tours
    • regional tourist associations
    • government departments
    • tramping guide books

    With some thorough research,  these sources should provide me with the answers to the following questions:

    • Do they go in November? 
    • How long do they take? 
    • What sightseeing do they incorporate?
    • What are the highlights of the trip that should not be missed?
    • What options ( linking walks) do they provide?
    • Where do they start and finish?
    • What do they charge?

    Hopefully, you will be able to help me with this research process.

    Other Relevant Posts

    Bushwalking Workflow | Planning a Bushwalk
    Bushwalking Rescue | Emergency Beacons and Personal Tracking Systems
    How do You Organise Your Food for a Multi-day Hike?
    Packing for a Bushwalk 
    Plan Safer Bushwalks | Weather Forecasts and Climate Records
    How much fuel do I need?

    Creative Commons License
    This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Bushwalking Workflow | Planning a Bushwalk

    You may have heard the saying that 80 % of the fun of a bushwalk is in the planning, 60% talking about it afterwards and – 40% doing the walk! It’s not quite like that for me, but certainly the planning and the challenge of a new location are the most important components for me.

    I spend hours checking out maps, reading the bushwalking blogs of those who have done the walk before me, talking to people in the outdoors shops that I know, perusing the  walking guides, using Google Earth to see the route in 3D, plotting waypoints using my mapping software and checking out the picture galleries of those who have already done the walk. I like to have the complete picture before I do the walk so there are no surprises. This increases my anticipation and enjoyment.

    Thorough planning enables me to enjoy the scenery, wildlife and plants while I walk, listen to others in my group without having to concentrate on my map too intensely, take lots of photos and generally relax. I could not do this if I hadn’t planned carefully in advance and didn’t have the whole route in my head.

    The first step for me is to choose a new area where I haven’t been before or perhaps an area where I have been before but to which I would like to introduce some friends or extend the walk with a new challenge. I rarely go to the same area twice.

    Steps to planning a successful group walk

    • Decide on the region and time of year, based on your experience as a leader and the weather conditions
    • Gain approval for walk, if necessary
    • Identify relevant maps, walk guides, blogs and review these
    • Prepare a tentative route (use a route card) including escape routes and alternatives in case of unforeseen circumstances
    • Pre-walk the route if possible, entering waypoints as you go into your GPS 
    • Advertise the walk or invite friends, including information such as
      • difficulty level (hazards, weather)
      • duration
      • dates
      • whether it is a qualifying walk for full membership
    Sample Medical Information Sheet
    • Appoint an Assistant Walk Leader, who is compatible with your personality and who complements your skills.
    • Collect information:
      • Medical, contact details, NOK information
      •  Experience levels of potential walkers
      • Special skills of participants (first aid, navigation, photography, plants, history) ?
      • Obtain access permissions, and any Parks permits needed
      • Have a Risk waiver signed by each participant
    • Determine maximum size of group and how you will restrict group size 
    • Review list of possible participants and decide how you will eliminate those with insufficient experience.
    • Arrange Transport and Accommodation
    • Appoint an Emergency Contact person and determine the trigger for contacting police.NB: Some clubs have a designated person.
    • Obtain permits and get access permissions
    • Advise Trip Intentions to relevant authorities
    • Distribute an Information Sheet to participants including
      • Objectives of walk
      • Route card
      • Escape routes (to seek help or cut walk short)
      • Maps
      • Access, permits, hazards, water supplies
      • Transport
      • A few days before, check transport details, weather conditions, park closures, flooded access routes, bushfires in area, water availability and make adjustments, including cancellation if necessary.
      Bushwalking Leadership [SA]

      • Runs comprehensive bushwalk leadership courses from Day Walk to Advanced.
      Let us know before you go (pdf) (Parks and Wildlife SA)
      Trip Intention Form pdf (NSW Police)
      Medical Emergency Information
      A Guide to Better Bushwalking (pdf)  Bushwalking Leadership SA

      • Contains Sample Medical Information Form and Route Card

      A Risk Management Framework (pdf) (The Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs NSW, 2004)

      • Contains Incident Report Form, Risk Waiver Form

      Before You Walk – Essential Bushwalking Guide (Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania 2009) as pdf

        Creative Commons License
        This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.