I wrote a backcountry mapping site


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Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 23, 2011 - 01:33pm PT
I've been laid up with a sit start related sprained ankle and finally finished a project I started last winter to write a google maps based site that didn't suck for planing backcountry/off road/off trail use. Check it out: http://www.hillmap.com/. It has a bunch of features:

* Topo maps from a number of different open webservices covering the US and Canada in detail and the rest of the world somewhat.
* Satellite imagery and split screen display for planing a rout that minimizes bushwhacking.
* Slope angle estimation at a point and along a line (this is mostly a skiing feature but you can use it on cliffs though it may underestimate them).
* Easy path construction, add pins to create a path then drag them around or click on the lines to add more to refine the path.
* Measure the distance and elevation change along the path, plot the elevation and slope.
* Make notes (the show up as white pins).
* Share/save the results by generating a link like this one:
(Hit profile path on that link and check out the slope angle along the Nose)
* Print a high resolution topo of an area using USGS tiles.

I have a lot of time to work on improving and refining it as my ankle keeps me off the rocks and I'd love to hear any suggestions, requests or criticisms you guys have. I apologize if this is spamy, at least it is on topic.


Sport climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
May 23, 2011 - 01:39pm PT
More than anything, I'm digging the ability to see a topo and satellite view side by side updating simultaneously. Thanks for the work!

May 23, 2011 - 01:44pm PT
Dude seriously good work!

Trad climber
May 23, 2011 - 02:35pm PT
just did a quick hit--

looks really nice. i'll try it out in the next few weeks.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
May 23, 2011 - 02:35pm PT
pretty cool!
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 23, 2011 - 02:47pm PT
wow - this is really nice.

A long way from where I started
May 23, 2011 - 02:49pm PT
Pretty good, with one big problem: you appear to be showing that there might just be cliffs to be discovered in NW Washington.

Everybody knows there is nothing worth climbing there except the few cliffs that have already been discovered. So I think you should just blank out that part of the map. Maybe leave Index, the Exits, and Leavenworth on, but show everything else as impenetrable flat jungle.

Nate D

San Francisco
May 23, 2011 - 05:35pm PT
Very very cool, thank you!

I'm map obsessed. The print feature is awesome.

Wondering if the profile feature can be more intuitive. I'm having a hard time making sense of the pink profile, but I'm also not versed in other topo profile software. I realize that each point is at zero, but don't understand why.

I'm also wondering if there's any way to adjust the length of the profile (created by a path) to map to distance being relative to height.
Right now the distance on the profile constrains to the width of the window, if that makes sense. Whether it's 500 ft. or 5 miles, the profile shows the same length for the distance. In a nutshell, can there be a way to essentially draw a line from one point to another, and get a "cross section" of that bit of land, with an accurate visual representation of the steepness/flatness of the terrain.

Hoping that is possible.

Mountain climber
May 23, 2011 - 06:52pm PT
first: this site you made, is wicked. what i like is that it makes quick work of getting a better understanding of traverses. most of the features i wanted were already there once i figured things out. (saving, mouseover elevations and distances on the profile path output window, etc.) so thanks, alot!

second: there were a couple of things i looked for, but didn't find. i'd like to be able to delete pins and i'd like to be able to correspond between pin locations on the map and points on the profile path graphs. ex. if i'm doing a long traverse i'd like to be able to know where pin no. 7 is on the profile graphs.

that said, these are pretty minor points, so mostly just wanted to say thanks!

bay area
May 23, 2011 - 07:15pm PT

whoa, this is really cool - thanks a ton for putting it together!
Timid TopRope

Social climber
Paradise, CA
May 23, 2011 - 07:39pm PT
I really like the side by side images as well. Google Earth greatly lacks in watershed names for creeks and many rivers so this can also be a great aid for some off-the-beaten-track fishing beta as well.

Thanks for putting this together and sharing it here. I saved it to my Favorites. Great work!

May 23, 2011 - 08:00pm PT
Hey, this is really nice. The side by side display already solves many of the issues that drive me a little bananas about trying to use the Google terrain view. Thank you very much for writing this and putting it out there in public.

May 23, 2011 - 08:36pm PT
Very cool, I love maps, nice work. Sorry about your ankle. I hope you continue to develop this after it heals up.

I'm also having a little trouble defining a starting point and drawing paths. Might be user-error on my part, but a little more finesse with that facet might help.

Mountain climber
Oakland -> SLT
May 23, 2011 - 09:30pm PT
This is REALLY great!
I've been waiting for something that will allow you to plot routes and get mileage/profile, EASILY and FREE.
Well done!

btw... I'm a GIS guy, way to take advantage of that free data.

Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 23, 2011 - 09:34pm PT
Thanks for the feedback everyone!

I'll keep keep working on the site after I heal but down time was instrumental in knocking out the key features and putting it up somewhere public...any features that don't get in before I fully recover might have to wait for rainy days...but i do live in Seattle.

QITNL, the ui definitely needs a lot of refinement but you should be able to start a path by switching the tool drop down to path mode and then just clicking on the map a few times...if it isn't working let me know what browser and os you are using as I haven't tested all of them.

I think the path suggestions nah000 makes should be doable. It will be easy enough to link up the mouse-overs on the graph and path or something so you can see what parts correspond to what. I haven't added delete mostly because I feel like I need to do undo if I let people delete things. What do you guys think? I have also thought I should let you combine a pin with its neighbor on a path by dragging one onto the other.

I've also been looking into adding geological maps which, incidentally, show that all of NW washington is chossy basalt ... besides the glacial erratics at Index, Darrington and Leavenworth of course.


May 23, 2011 - 09:41pm PT
This is great! Thanks.


Social climber
Oxnard, CA
May 23, 2011 - 09:58pm PT
Yeah, that's great. Nice work. I was interpreting an area on the satellite map completely wrong. Thanks

May 23, 2011 - 11:40pm PT
Hey Ryan - Thanks for the reply. Maybe I'm a dummy, but it seems to be working better for me now. The problem had to do with the starting point generated by the "Search" box. Your instructions helped.

If this program is a work-in-progress, a changelog would be nice.

I'm on MacOS - Camino, Safari, Firefox - some of which needs to be updated - but I'm happy to give you beta from that platform, if it helps. Some sites don't always work, I view that as my problem, don't worry about it.

Undo and delete would add another level of complexity but certainly would be nice. Thanks for your effort with this!

Trad climber
Humboldt, CA
May 24, 2011 - 11:48am PT
wow, great job. It IS a great trip planning tool. I spent a couple of hours looking at trip options for this weekend. the various map options are really helpful.

Thanks for sharing.
The Wedge

Boulder climber
Santa Rosa & Bishop, CA
May 24, 2011 - 12:39pm PT
Way cool. I see lat and long. Can you switch over to UTM???

Trad climber
Jun 4, 2011 - 02:38pm PT
very very cool.

Thanks for the resource!

Boulder climber
Jun 4, 2011 - 04:41pm PT
This is great! At first I have to say I thought it was an amateur programmars job at recreating the features in google earth.. BUT shame on me because the range of surface overlays is fantastic and very very useful.

Actually it has helped me determine some boundaries of private vs USFS ground that show up in the MyTopo overlay.

As other ppl have said, deleting pins would be useful.. but Im sure you'll jazz up the route design features in good time.

Maybe one day all these sites... mountainproject, wikiboulder, 27crags, sendage will all come together and make some huge infinitely useful resource... probably for the best? or maybe not!

As for apologizing for "spamming" ST... yeah I was greviously disappointed when I opened this thread and didnt find 3,213 replies relating to the color blue vs red...

PS. Good luck with ankle. I dislocated mine 6 months ago, basically healed now, just gotta be patient

Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 8, 2011 - 12:07pm PT
So I spent some more time working on hillmap and made some improvements to the path tool based on nah000 and others suggestions. Path node icons are now less intrusive and you can now mouse over them to see the distance along the path. I would like to make the mouse over highlight the graph as well put the library I'm using for plotting doesn't support that.

I also added a short changlog to the about page at QITNL's suggestion.

And Baggins, I lost my amateur programer status long ago ;) ... though professionally i mostly write software to analyze cancer data and Hillmap is showing off how amateur my graphic design skills are. I am trying to extend google maps to be more useful for planing trips away from roads using free api's provided by google and others.
Tim Camuti

Trad climber
Aug 9, 2012 - 03:41am PT
Thanks for continuing to improve the site, I really like what I see. I lead backcountry treks for summer camps and this can help to share our planned route with people coming to join! Also lets us do all sorts of other fun shared things like GPX comparison or planned vs. actual route. Thanks again for doing this!

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Aug 9, 2012 - 04:40pm PT
Thank you for this site. Just using it for the first time right now. I'll chime in with feedback when I have something useful.

Aug 9, 2012 - 04:44pm PT
Nice new features and good info in the blog. Thanks!

Trad climber
Aug 9, 2012 - 06:16pm PT
Well Done! A great resource. Just looked up a loop out of Florence lake to climb Mt. Hooper. So cool. Thanks man.
Andrew F

Trad climber
Sunnyvale, CA
Aug 10, 2012 - 02:21pm PT
After using pretty much all the other mapping sites for trip planning, I have now switched exclusively to Hillmap. I use it at least once a week. Thanks Ryan!

Northern Mexico
Apr 13, 2013 - 07:19pm PT

Spring is here bump

I totally dig this site.
Great way to figure out approaches and then some.

Thanks Ryan

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
Apr 13, 2013 - 08:36pm PT
this is slick! thx!

Mountain climber
Camino, CA
Apr 13, 2013 - 11:12pm PT
Nice Job! Thanks

Hobart, Australia
Apr 14, 2013 - 03:56am PT
Mighty fine work. Did some similar work a few years back (http://www.lynxgeos.com);. Looks very useful! Cheers
Fish Finder

Social climber
Apr 8, 2014 - 11:36pm PT

Damn this makes it easy for what I was looking for

Edit:Thanks ryanb, outstanding!
looks easy from here

Ben Lomond, CA
Apr 8, 2014 - 11:46pm PT
Hokey smokes this is awesome!

Trad climber
the middle of CA
Apr 9, 2014 - 12:20am PT
I've been using this for winter route planning but I never saw this thread. Great work!!!!!

Trad climber
Sun Coast B.C.
Apr 9, 2014 - 12:36am PT
Been using this tool, for several years, to map out local exploratory ski trips in my area.(
Really useful for recording/sharing trip reports amongst a small group.
Lots of "un-charted" ski terrain... charted!
Wanted to let you know.
Good work.
And thanks from all 6 of us in ski community in Powell River, B.C.
Fish Finder

Social climber
Apr 9, 2014 - 12:39am PT

You ever get the feeling that this place is filled with tons of unsung heroes?
David Knopp

Trad climber
Apr 9, 2014 - 01:30am PT
yep. i use this pretty regularly and it works great-thanks Dude!

Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 9, 2014 - 11:11am PT
Hah, fun to see this thread come around again. Thanks for the complements and I'm glad people are using the site to get out. It has come along ways but still has a long ways to go...just wish I had more time to work on it.

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Apr 9, 2014 - 12:20pm PT
Well done sir!

Quick suggestion/question: is it possible to change the date of the satellite image? For example, the image that covers most of the Desolation Wilderness (W of Tahoe) has so much snow that it is hard to see much of the terrain.

Social climber
Apr 9, 2014 - 12:46pm PT
Hah, I was just using this site yesterday to do some plotting. Thanks for doing this - amazing resource!
Fish Finder

Social climber
Apr 9, 2014 - 12:55pm PT

it sounds like a labor of love

but dont worry

most artists feel their work is never done

again... great job and quite an asset to the community

I appreciate your time.

Social climber
Apr 9, 2014 - 01:50pm PT
hey there say, ryanb.... wow, i had not see this...

nice to see it bumped up... and nice to see you are still enjoying
your work, too...

happy climbs... hope the ankle does not 'after effect/affect' bother you,

Oakland, CA
Sep 27, 2017 - 09:54am PT
Bump - great application, wish I'd found it years ago. Thank you for building it!

Trad climber
Sep 27, 2017 - 10:56am PT
I just found this and the only change that would be really nice would be the ability to reverse the course. Sometimes it is easier to layout from the end but then you want to see the elevation from the other end.
another nickname

Social climber
Yazoo Ms
Oct 1, 2017 - 08:43am PT

There's another set of aerial photos that are often shot in winter... significantly helpful in eastern forests....not so where trees are predominately non-deciduous...(see for example, Gmap4 site).

Also, mapping sites that have a little "X" in the middle of the map I find are sometimes useful.

I'm too much of a computer illiterate to comment on your other features....am still stuck with a compass and paper in the field. Maybe some day.......
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Oct 2, 2017 - 03:40pm PT
Sweet app - good job and thank you! Split screen with topo is awesome.

Ice climber
Oct 2, 2017 - 03:54pm PT
That's sure fine lookin'

Man it's something else

Even has how to & help


Trad climber
the middle of CA
Oct 2, 2017 - 04:01pm PT
Never saw this thread the first time but have used the site a lot. Thank you for putting it together, it's great!
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
Oct 2, 2017 - 08:06pm PT
I've had it my Favorites bar for 6 years and added it to my work issue lap top for my field tech duties. Thanks for the selfless endeavour.

Any chance you could make it zoom in bit more?
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