Friday, March 28, 2014

Better Terrain Identification

While scouting some backcountry ski terrain l last weekend, I had trouble identifying a slope.  I'd taken a photo and could match that to what I saw on the view from here feature, but the slope itself was unlabeled.  I had trouble identifying the nearby peaks - while they were named, entering "abc peak, ca" in the search bar didn't match anything, so I had to start with the general location and pore over the map until I found them.

Once the nearby peaks were identified, it was still hard to figure out exactly which slope I was interested in.  The angle I was looking from made it hard to match ridges and subpeaks to features on the map without a lot of careful back and forth.  And so in my frustration, a new feature was born - sort of a reverse view from here.

Lets do a hypothetical example.  From the top of Half Dome, you see a dome that looks interesting, but you can't figure out what it is.  Fire up CalTopo, enter "half dome" in the search bar, and then right click on the summit and choose "View From Here":


Here's the large-scale simulated view looking up Tenaya Canyon from the top of Half Dome:


And here's the view zoomed in on the mystery dome.  Unfortunately it doesn't have an entry in my USGS-supplied list of summits, so unlike Mendlicott Dome above and to the right, it doesn't get a label:


Previously, identifying this dome would have taken some map legwork.  Now, you can right-click on it and choose the only option available, "Map This Spot":


A new CalTopo map browser will open centered on the spot you clicked:


In this case the mystery feature is Pywiack Dome (note the center graticule on its southern face).

Depending on how long it takes for my server to figure out what point you're looking at, the CalTopo map browser may open in a new window rather than a new tab.  Not ideal, but it's a browser feature I only have so much control over.  When I have more time, I'll see what I can do about that.  Enjoy!

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