"Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain... Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall - it's great when you stop."

Chris Darwin

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Dark chest of wonders

Web can be treasure chest for climbers searching for maps and information about the climbing destinations. Google maps is a good resource in planning. However, their maps don't offer sufficient details for mountain areas. Furthermore, when zoomed in into greatest detail, their maps cover only small area.

Google doesn't allow users to save a map for offline use either. This is easy enough to circumvent by taking a screen capture though. However, if you need a larger area than what fits into screen (or viewport if viewing embedded map), then you are out of luck. Well, sort of. This can be circumvented just as well, simply by:

  1. Taking multiple screen captures
  2. Stitching them together in image editing application

Depending on the number of screen captures required, this can be a very painful process. There are some tools to automate the process when working with Google Maps though, search and you'll find.

Very well, I found out that Map+ has maps about Switzerland available online, that zoom in all the way to great detail (looks a lot like 1:25.000 at least for mountain areas). The downside is that their maps are available only through small vieport, therefore, tens, if not hunderds of screen caps are required to cover larger areas. Which makes the manual stitching process rather time consuming and very boring indeed. So I thought there needs to be a better way. The best I've found so far (best and good are very different things, though) consists of

  1. using screen capture application/add-on, that allows capturing of selection only to a file. For Firefox, e.g. Screengrab add-on is such a tool
  2. Import the files into image editing application of your choice as layers.
  3. Carefully align the layers. Some image manipulation tools have features to auto-align the layers or separate images. Such a features are designed for building panoramas and can be a great help in stitching maps as well. Unfortunately I had rather poor results with such features though, as they tend to crash when you throw tens of images their way. Furthermore, they tended to rotate and/or distort base images thus producing inaccurate results. If such a automation works, it would be a time saver though.

Another nifty Google service is Google Earth. It can be a great help as well in planning the trip as it makes it easier to visualize the area, therefore it can assist in trying to figure out whether it is feasible to get from place A to B. And playing with it is great fun too.

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