Kayak Lake Mead's Map & Compass
Using Distance, Time, Pace
To Determine Position

It is always good procedure to keep track of distance covered and time elapsed, distance over time;  i.e. your pace. Knowing elapsed time is super important!  Knowing your pace is super important!  These are the primary clues in knowing your position. Sometimes they will be the only clues.

A runner knows she is clipping along with a 6 minute mile and she knows this from her experience as a runner but she still clocks herself.  An avid mountain biker will have the advantage of a speedometer and will know her pace with a glance but even without the speedometer she probably has a good feel for her pace on any given terrain.  As you gain experience covering distances on primitive trails, through the mountains with no trail, or across the desert you’ll develop the same feel for your pace.  Pay attention to your experiences, clock yourself, and take notes.  With a little time you will know when you’re doing 15 min miles, 12 min miles, etc.
1. Mountain Biking on a Road:
You are at position “C”; mountain biking south to
WP 5/7 with the intention of hiking to position “F”.
It is getting dark and you’re concerned, rightly so,
that you will not be able see the valley leading up to
“F”.  Yes, there is a hilltop (orange arrow) just to the west of WP 5/7 but notice also that a ridge off that hilltop extends north to the direction you’re coming from and the hilltop itself is merely a part of a ridge extending further to the south.  Are you still sure you will be able to readily identify WP 5/7 in the dark?  Yes, there is a saddle (pink arrow) south of that hilltop which will also help identify the position.

Distance: Measuring the distance of the road from
“C” to “5/7” gives 2.25 miles.

Pace: If you keep an eyeball on your speedometer
and your speed at 4.5 mph.

Time: You will arrive at “5/7” in 30 min.

2. Hiking Down a Canyon:

You are descending down Long Valley from WP 3 to WP 6 (just forget about WP’s 4 & 5 OK).  Your altimeter is at home.  If your plan is to exit Long Valley at the red arrow; you need to know
where to do that. 

Distance: You measure that to be 2.1 km away.

Pace: You’ve been moving at about 11 min per km.

Time: You should be there in 23 to 25 min.

Additional Clue: Notice also that as you descend Long Valley; twice you will be moving west and curving around to the south.  In both cases there will be an intersecting gully from the northwest.  See the violet arrows.  At about 250 m past the second curve will be your exit, a gully ascending due east.
using distance, time, and pace on a road
using distance, time, and pace in a canyon
Notes: When you are planning to travel in the bottom of a canyon; anticipate being able to see few if any landmarks for navigational purposes. In a canyon like the one above your ability to see landmarks is greatly reduced.  In a steep walled canyon it is zero.

Distance, Time, and Pace: These are your primary tools in knowing your positioning a canyon.

Altimeter: This is probably your next best tool since canyons constantly change elevation.

Compass: This is the least valuable tool in a canyon.  But if used right it can give some good clues.
(see Compass Use in Canyons)

using distance, time, and pace while traveling fast
3. Mountain Biking Fast…Down a Road…and
Keeping Track of Position:

You are at the intersection indicated by the START and you want to get to the END.

You are going to ride up Lovell Canyon Road.  You need to know where that right-turn is (orange arrow).

Distance: Count the 1 km squares. I count 4.5. Multiply by a “fudge” factor of 1.3, this is an improved road (paved actually) and 1.3 works well for a good road with a few curves.

Estimated distance is 6.0 km. If you measure the distance carefully I think you’ll get 5.9 km.

Pace: It is uphill the whole way but if you
keep your speed at 9.0 km/hr then your…

Time: will be 40 min.

Start looking for the turn at about 5.75 km, in other words, always gives yourself a “window” for any errors in distance determination or odometer calibration.

However, in this case there is a turn at 5.75 km that is not “our” turn.  How can we rule it out?  (1) Most obviously it is a 4-way turn and not a 3-way, but be careful with that.  Old dirt roads that appear on the map may not in fact be there any more and, conversely and even more common, roads that you find on the ground may not be mapped.  ( 2) It is at a lower elevation, but I don’t think significantly so.  (3) ! Look closely, it appears to go up a gully, whereas the turn we want appears to go up a ridge with the gully on the right. 

Important: Mark your turn and mark all the intersections that are close to your target.  You may want to mark all intersections and other prominent landmarks such as schools, mines, power-grid substations, etc.  As you ride by those intersections and landmarks you will be able to account for them; this will “clue” you in to the terrain; in case you forgot to check your watch before you started riding, or your odometer suddenly just shows 0.00, or it is dark, or you’re in a forest, or a canyon and you cannot get a visual on any other terrain.

Email us about Kayak Lake Mead's Map & Compass Course

Phone: 928-767-3061
Map & Compass - Using Distance, Time, PaceTo Determine Position