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Subchapter: Topographic map

Climber's topographic map

HOW TO READ AND INTERPRET IT

If you are going to climb alpine rock faces, you will need the most detailed information possible about the rock and the route. All this can be found on a topographic map: This is a graphic representation of a climbing route and can usually be found in a guidebook or on certain websites. The lead climber should always have the topographic map at hand when on the rock face.

Like any map, a topographic map uses symbols to represent information about the rock. Climbers can orient themselves on the basis of these standardized Symbols. Illustrations indicate the climbing direction, the length of each pitch and the number and type of belay points. Further indicators that can help with orientation include a logical route, the rock quality as well notable features on the rock.

What do the following topographc symbols mean?

Click on one of the symbols below to find out more.

Topographic symbols

Chimney

A vertical crevice in the rock which is more than the width of the body (> 60cm). Chimneys can be climbed by stemming or bridging

Chockstone

A large rock or stone wedged in a chimney or crack

Crack

A crevice that is smaller than a chimney, although at times the line between crevices and chimneys is blurred

Gully

A vertical recess surrounded by rocks

Dihedral

Two rock faces or slabs which converge in the shape of an open book, usually with an internal crack. Climbing dihedrals involves shifting pressure: alternating between stemming the legs and supporting with the arms

Edge

Usually small to very small horizontal ledges that make good hand and foot holds.

Slabs

Inclined rock with little structure. Friction is often used for climbing these

Overhang

Rock with an incline of more than 90 degrees that is therefore steeper than vertical. This requires arm strength, as climbing is exhausting

Roof

An almost horizontal overhang where climbing becomes more exhausting than on a vertical rock face

Ramp

Steeply rising ledge/sloping surface. Warning: Ramps can often remain damp after rain.

Ledge

: Horizontal pedestal on a rock face

Pedestal, shoulder

Cave / Hollow

Water streaks

Usually vertical erosion in limestone

Boulders/ rubble

Snowfield, firn field

Cornice

Heavily compacted, overhanging snow deposit on rock edges

Mountain pine

Sufficiently thick mountain pines can serve as intermediate belay points.

Tree

Sufficiently thick trees can be solid fixed points.

Grass

Warning: Steep grassy slopes are dangerous when wet

Fixed wire rope

Pendulum

Climber must cross a rock passage swinging on a fixed rope

Belay

Securing point to which the lead climber or follower is secured by the fixed partner.

Rappelling point

Designated route for abseiling.

Bivouac site

Key spot

Most difficult point on the climbing route

Chimney
Chockstone
Crack
Gully
Dihedral
Edge
Slabs
Overhang
Roof
Ramp
Ledge
Pedestal, shoulder
Cave / Hollow
Water streaks
Boulders/ rubble
Snowfield, firn field
Cornice
Mountain pine
Tree
Grass
Fixed wire rope
Pendulum
Belay
Rappelling point
Bivouac site
Key spot
Visible route
Obscured route
Variant
Bolt
Piton
Tunnel

QUIZ: Reading a topographic map correctly

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3

Like any map, a topographic map provides information about the route. The rope team can navigate the rock face based on the symbols on the topographic map. Now it’s your turn: Test your knowledge by completing the topographic map! On the route on the left you will find three terms from topographic maps – but the correct symbols are missing. Choose the correct symbol for each term and drag it onto the topographic map next to the term!

Not all symbols are correctly assigned.

Operations

Click on one of the free fields in the map to select an icon.

Belay
Roof
Dihedral

Which tophographic symbol is the right one?

Click on the field marked in the map to select the correct symbol.

Operations

Drag the correct icons from the list onto the map.

Chimney
Chockstone
Crack
Gully
Dihedral
Edge
Slabs
Overhang
Roof
Ramp
Ledge
Pedestal, shoulder
Cave / Hollow
Water streaks
Boulders/ rubble
Snowfield, firn field
Cornice
Mountain pine
Tree
Grass
Fixed wire rope
Pendulum
Belay
Rappelling point
Bivouac site
Key spot
Visible route
Obscured route
Variant
Bolt
Piton
Tunnel belay

Like any map, a topographic map provides information about the route. The rope team can navigate the rock face based on the symbols on the topographic map. Now it’s your turn: Test your knowledge by completing the topographic map! On the route on the left you will find three terms from topographic maps – but the correct symbols are missing. Choose the correct symbol for each term and drag it onto the topographic map next to the term!

Not all symbols are correctly assigned.

Operations

Click on one of the free fields in the map to select an icon.

Gully
Rappelling point
Ledge

Which tophographic symbol is the right one?

Not all symbols are correctly assigned.

Operations

Drag the correct icons from the list onto the map.

Chimney
Chockstone
Crack
Gully
Dihedral
Edge
Slabs
Overhang
Roof
Ramp
Ledge
Pedestal, shoulder
Cave / Hollow
Water streaks
Boulders/ rubble
Snowfield, firn field
Cornice
Mountain pine
Tree
Grass
Fixed wire rope
Pendulum
Belay
Rappelling point
Bivouac site
Key spot
Visible route
Obscured route
Variant
Bolt
Piton
Tunnel belay
Subchapter: topograpic map

Congratulations!

You have assigned all symbols correctly.

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