Friday, February 4, 2011

Optimal Hiking Grade - A 50 Hike GPS Analysis

Do you care about optimal hiking grade? Maybe not, but it's interesting for us to think about.

Intuitively, some may think that steeper trails should get you up higher more quickly because less energy is being put into the "horizontal miles" that a less steep trail would need.

However, we probably also feel that at some point something becomes too steep to ascend without the looseness of the terrain affecting our pace.

So what's the "optimal" grade? Well, I'm sure the answer is unique to an individual, but let's look at one person.

We previously did a little exploration into how Vertical Ascent Rate (VAR) varied with the steepness of a trail, but only with one example. Now I've combined 50 hikes worth of data.

The hikes:

  • Mostly in southern California (especially San Gabriels), some in Sierra and Bay Area
  • Diverse in conditions, includes much on trail and off trail
  • Some have brush
  • Varied terrain (loose, bouldering, etc...)
But it's a set of "real" hikes that I've done. A little Matlab coding and analysis, and we can see how often a given grade of terrain was hiked: