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Distance : miles or time ?
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Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Distance : miles or time ? on 05/05/2012 18:07:36 MDT Print View

Just finished reading a book about the effect of climate change in the Arctic Circle , mostly it discusses the way of life in that area.
(Empire of Ice by Gretel Ehrlich)
One of the many interesting points that came up is the fact that the Inuit measure distance in time not miles, so B is six hours away from A not 10 or 20 miles...
That reminded me we, in the Italian Alps, did exactly the same.
I still don't know now what distances we covered, I just know how long it takes to get there...
By the way if you want a quick insight into why when you lose a language (Inuktitut in this case) you also lose a culture, this is a good book to read.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Distance : miles or time ? on 05/05/2012 19:21:12 MDT Print View

In effect I have always dealt with trail distances this way - accurate mileage measurements being hard to come by, I read the map and estimate miles and translate to hours depending on whether it is on trail or off, how much elevation gain or loss, etc. I don't ever know the real mileage, but I'm usually accurate in terms of how long it will take me to get from one place to another.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Distance : miles or time ? on 05/05/2012 19:33:11 MDT Print View

The Sherpa people in Nepal are the same way. In general, they have no vehicles with meters, so they don't know what a mile is. If you ask them how many miles it is to the next village, they respond with something like "It's a full day of walk."

Of course, that leaves the Westerners kind of puzzled, because we don't know if that means ten miles or twenty miles.


John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Distance : miles or time ? on 05/05/2012 19:50:54 MDT Print View

My brother is a Neurologist and did basic research in pharmacology. For some South American native peoples the basic unit of time is the Cocada-the duration of effect of a Cocoa leaf with relations to altitude, distance and loads.Like a Starbucks minute these days I'd guess.

Edited by Meander on 05/05/2012 19:52:15 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Distance : miles or time ? on 05/05/2012 21:41:39 MDT Print View

Time, always time.
Compare a walk along a flat road with a walk through big mountains or through heavy scrub. Distance means nothing.

Via Alpina stage to Meilar Hut (Austria): you climb 3,000 m that day.
Beggary Bumps in SW Tasmania: you cover 2 km in a full hard day.


Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
signs give distance by time in the Alps too on 05/05/2012 22:28:34 MDT Print View

In the Austrian Alps, I too was surprised to find that the yellow trail signs gave distances in terms of hours, and not in distance.

Sort of took me aback at first because the signs abbreviated "hour" with an 'h'. The German abbreviation should use an 's'. I guess that's another case of the global power and reach of english.

Like probably many before me, I at first was bothered by time-as-distance, but if you spend a bit of time hiking in the area you learn to calibrate their time estimates to your own pace.

Is the fact that I still think it's a gonzo approach some aspect of cultural lensing, the fact that I was educated as an engineer or ... am I just objectively right? :-)

I wonder if perhaps time-as-distance developed in areas and at times where accurate distance measurements weren't feasible? And it persists due to inertia and tradition.
Indeed, there might be a sort of cultural preference at work in places too.

All part of the fun and adventure of travel.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: signs give distance by time in the Alps too on 05/06/2012 02:15:38 MDT Print View

Hi Brian

Hum ... we normally see 'stadt' in Germany and Austria, but I will keep an eye out.

But referring back to my examples - I suggest the distance value is purely cosmetic. After all, who cares whether it is 2 km or 20 km? What I want to know is whether I can get there before dark: how many hours will it take me.

YMMV (Your Minutes May Vary)

Edited for spelling

Edited by rcaffin on 05/08/2012 02:15:44 MDT.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
I'll take the objective, thank you on 05/06/2012 08:32:38 MDT Print View

Although I regularly GIVE time estimates, I'll take the mileage on the maps and signs, please. My time estimate/actual may be a lot different than what some schmo puts on a sign, and I definitely use signage for orienteering purposes.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 05/06/2012 09:47:53 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/12/2015 00:58:37 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Stad? on 05/06/2012 10:00:34 MDT Print View

"Hum ... we normally see 'stad' in Germany and Austria, but I will keep an eye out."

As in the ancient greek stadion? Seems like that would be equivalent to giving distances in furlongs here ...
Perhaps different context in the sign and it was stadt rather than stad??

Anyway, short of trying to figure out how to upload one of my pictures to this site, here's an example of what I saw in Austria:

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: Distance : miles or time ? on 05/06/2012 18:35:21 MDT Print View

On trail if I'm asking someone how far it is, or telling someone, I use distance. There have been many times when someone will tell me a spot is an hour and a half away and I show up there in 35 minutes. Some people might take all day to do 7 miles on moderate trail, while others do it in only a few hours. Driving on the other hand I always use time.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
miles on 05/06/2012 18:50:26 MDT Print View

I would much prefer to be told/see miles not hours. I know what my speed is for given terrain/conditions, I certainly don't know what someone else's is- how would like you to run into Joe Grant and tell you it's just a couple of hours to the trailhead! :)

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: miles on 05/07/2012 19:48:34 MDT Print View

Agree with miles instead of time. The distance is a constant, the time it takes to get there will differ based upon many factors. Let me decide how long it will take me to get from A->B.


Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: miles on 05/07/2012 19:55:13 MDT Print View

Always read off the map in Meters and equate it to time using Nazmiths rule.

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - MLife

Locale: New Zealand
Re: Distance : miles or time ? on 05/07/2012 21:28:39 MDT Print View

In New Zealand the common practice is to use time as the measure of distance between two points, and most signs will indicate time. DOC (Department of Conservation) Government organistation responsible for looking after National Parks etc. have more recently been putting distances on signs along with times, which gives you a good idea of what to expect of the track ahead (it is quite common to see the km equal the hours, and you know you are in for for a tough workout).

One reason would be that tracks and routes historically(outside the really popular track such as the "Great Walks") have never been measured accurately, and prior to GPS quite difficult to get a reasonable distance measure. And as Roger pointed out, most people just want to know if there is enough time to get to the next destination or not, or just how long is the suffering going to continue.

One thing with stated times in New Zealand to be aware of is if the track is close to a roadend and is suitable for family groups then walking time of a medium fitness party would be less than stated by a quarter to a third. Standard tramping tracks have times quoted that medium fitness parties would normally match. In more remote regions with minimal routes or straight wilderness, quoted times would match those of a fit experienced party but also would be somewhat variable due to conditions such as snow, mud, rain, wind, and most likely reason route finding.

Beating quoted times is considered a mildly entertaining diversion to the serious nature of tramping, and a method of getting one up on someone. ;-)

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Distance : miles or time ? on 05/07/2012 22:27:18 MDT Print View

As a kid /teenager we did mostly day outings.
Usually we started at 5-6 AM and arrived at destination around 11-12AM.
A couple of walks needed a 4/4:30am start.
For those I estimate the distance to be about 12km each way. Were we fast or slow ?

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 05/08/2012 09:39:25 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/11/2015 18:42:44 MDT.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Distance: Miles or Time? on 05/08/2012 09:59:02 MDT Print View

A mix of both...

In pre-trip planning I look at the mileage and I know that I hike at 2 miles per hour, with breaks, very consistently. Thus I can look at the day and use that to know either:
- How long we'll be hiking to cover a specified part of the trail OR
- How far we can go given a fixed (i.e. daylight) amount of time

When on the trail and we meet someone going the other direction and they ask a question like: "How far to the next water?" I'm much more likely to answer with "about an hour" than "two miles." If they questioned my response I'd translate it, but time seems to make the most sense when answering questions like that.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Distance: Miles or Time? on 05/08/2012 16:57:59 MDT Print View

"A mix of both..."

Strictly dependent on terrain, off trail or on trail, weather, how much I'm carrying, usually a combination of the two. That said, off trail in unfamiliar country has to be a time guesstimate, at best. All bets off then.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Distance : miles or time ? on 05/08/2012 17:14:15 MDT Print View

Here is the problem...
Your consistent 2 miles per hour may not work in a different area so you could end up a few hour short of the next water source or reasonable/legal place to camp.
Above I asked the question if 12km in 8 hours is fast or slow...
(that is less than 1 mile per hour)
Now I will explain why it took me so long to do it...
Take this walk.

San Lorenzo
Starting point the village at the top on the right. (1100m/3600')
Down to the village below (1000m/3280') collect the rest of the gang (well 1 or two) .
Down to (about 800m/2625' ) then to the right and then up to the peak on the right at the other side of the valley (2750m/9022')
The last peak left to right . It appears to be the lowest but it is higher that the others.
Lunch at the top (weather permitting) an hour or so of rest and then down. (about 4 hours to come down)
And that is how it took us all that time...
Now my cousin could do that about twice as fast bu he was an Olympic level athlete, unfortunately I am not...
So shall we mark that trip 15 miles or 12 hours plus ?