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post #16 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2015, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by oplopanax View Post
One thing to note is this;
most people think that the accuracy displayed is describing a 95 to 99% confidence interval. It is not - on all GPS units I've ever seen, and even on the specs for the chips, the accuracy is expressed in Circular Error Probable which is equivalent to a 50% confidence interval.

This might not make sense to people who do not understand probability and error estimates. The up shot is that you should double whatever value your GPS is telling you.

99% of the time this will not make a difference, but it's something you should know if you are making decisions that involve your well being.
What I think that means in the field is, when finding/approaching a waypoint, your device might show an accuracy of up to 3m (but maybe worse), and the device that marked it may have had an accuracy at the time of up to 3m, (but maybe worse), so your margin of error is usually double what your device's accuracy shows (but maybe worse ).
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post #17 of (permalink) Old 07-28-2015, 01:28 AM
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Originally Posted by englishoct View Post
My biggest problem with scrambling alone is path-finding.

I tend to second guess myself often, which frustrates me, especially when I'm tired. I'm heading out again to scramble for a few weeks in Banff/Jasper/Yoho area. Will a GPS device help me on the mountains? Has anyone used them before? How accurate are they? DO they have pre-loaded routes?

I'm asking because I don't want to sink money into something that'll confirm that I am indeed in Alberta, on a mountain.

I would need it to track my progress along a specific route.

Thanks ahead.

IF I could be so bold, I think your biggest issue is-as you readily suggest-is "path" finding or what we call Routefinding. The cure for that is not a GPS. I would suggest scrambling & hiking with someone that has greater practical experience than you. Ask questions, stop and look, observe and carry a map/compass.(and perhaps an altimeter watch) IF you don't know how to use those then start there. Take bearings to and from known locations and to known landmarks and work with those. Experience, instinct and common sense are huge assets and those "skills" can't be rushed. Once you are comfortable with that then proceed to the GPS, but as mclay1234 said, as an AID. I, personally, never depend on anything solely that goes "beep", but having said that the GPS can be an absolute marvelous tool. Now when the GPS can tell me where the crevasses are I'll really be impressed.
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post #18 of (permalink) Old 07-28-2015, 05:23 PM
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I must be old school... I figure route finding skills are probably more important than technical skills. It is a developed skills whose learning curve, like technical proficiency, seems to vary between people.

Trailheads, junctions, etc. are nice to know, but missing them is usually just a matter of convenience and comfort (a cold hungry night out or missed objective at worst). GPS help here seems fine (however a good spider-sense always seems appreciated within groups).

As people suggest, route finding on semi-technical scrambling terrain is a different matter. Technical GPS help here is, at least to me, a dangerous trap to fall into. Certainly some peaks may just have a single band to thread through. In these situations you'll often be fine relying on a GPS to find the right spot. But what happens when something goes wrong? How many days till the next party? Are you patient enough to wait it out, or will impatience and discomfort lead you to risky gamble?

As mentioned, thinking of route finding as a fun technical problem has become very much under-appreciated. Comfortable new routing on unknown peaks is at least as much fun as hard, aesthetic route repeats.
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post #19 of (permalink) Old 05-29-2018, 07:53 AM Thread Starter
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It's been years since I posted the initial question.


I've since purchased a GPS unit and used it on approx 12 summits. It was a godsend, mostly because it confirmed the correct route backtracking to the trailhead in cloudy/foggy conditions on hairy rock. It was very useful in helping me determine on descent if *that* was the same chimney that I climbed on the way up (and not the one 3 meters away).

Using it as pathfinding to summit was not as useful or necessary.

I would definitely recommend it to individuals who often second-guess their descent routes.

Thank you all for your advice.

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post #20 of (permalink) Old 06-01-2018, 12:01 PM
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I use a GPS all the time and love doing it. Yes, it's important not to solely rely on it, but they make life a lot easier, and I think they're fun to use. I just got back from a hike and used the Gaia GPS smartphone app for the first time. It's fantastic. As long as you have your map and route pre-loaded (easy to do) you can use your phone in airplane and low-power mode (the GPS chip still works), and the battery will last a very long time. Add an external battery to the equation and you're good for a week. I had my GPS with me just in case, but never even turned it on.
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post #21 of (permalink) Old 06-01-2018, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by englishoct View Post
It was very useful in helping me determine on descent if *that* was the same chimney that I climbed on the way up (and not the one 3 meters away).

If your GPS can reliably determine a 3 m difference? It sounds more like false precision to me.
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post #22 of (permalink) Old 06-01-2018, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Dru View Post
If your GPS can reliably determine a 3 m difference? It sounds more like false precision to me.
I would assume the OP was generalizing based on previous comments, but yes, in North America under ideal conditions and with WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) enabled, the most precise non-military GPSr units are accurate to 3m (so an error range under working conditions of ~6m). Close enough (for me) to rely on my memory for the last details, but not precise enough to rely on completely.

I'm guessing that's the reason for the all the ridge flagging tape?
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post #23 of (permalink) Old 06-04-2018, 08:22 PM
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I know exactly where you're coming from. I once asked a very similar question. The thing is the skill you need to find the trail is not GPS reading or navigation, it's reading terrain and rock.

Even if the trail is accurate there are many factors that can impede their effectivness. They are rarely accurate to more under 30m. And even if they are, 10m or even 5m on scrambles can be huge differences.
Using them to follow a route also inevitably leads to the "Blinder's Effect". You start putting more energy into obeying the GPS then making an assessment.
The best thing to do is have a photo, and map. Before you go up a route, find a good vantage point. Spend time trying to guess the route. Try and imagine what it will look like when you're standing next to it. From there head up and try and keep those images in mind.

The main reason you shouldn't sue a GPS though is you will never get better. Scrambling and Mountaineering is one of those things in life that doesn't have shortcuts. Embrace the learning experience. Adjust your expectations. Go with more experienced scramblers. All these things will help you build your skills.
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