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A map is a symbolic picture of a place. In convenient shorthand, it conveys a phenomenal amount of information in a form that is easy to understand and easy to carry. No mountaineer should travel without a map or the skill to translate its shorthand into details on the route. Note the publication date of the map because roads, trails, and other features may have changed since that time. Try to use the latest information. A number of different types of maps are available.

Relief maps are the maps that attempt to show terrain in three dimensions by the use of shadings of green, gray, and brown tones, terrain sketching, host of factors, including the season, weather conditions, the abilities of the party members, and the equipment available.

Before you've even shouldered your pack, you should have a mental image of the route. From experience, and from all the sources of information about the climb, you'll know how to make the terrain work in your favor. To avoid brush, try not to follow watercourses or drainages; select ridges over hillsides and gullies. Clearcuts are often full of slash or brushy second-growth trees, so stick to old-growth forest if possible.

A rock-slide area can be a feasible route—providing you watch carefully for new rockfall. One problem in planning the route, however, is that a rock-slide area may look the same on a map as an avalanche gully, which can have avalanche hazard in winter and spring and be choked with brush in summer and fall. If your sources aren't helpful, only a firsthand look will clear up this question.

The most straightforward return route is often the same as the route going in. If you plan to come back a different way, that route also needs careful advance preparation.

Don't let outdated information ruin your trip. Check beforehand with the appropriate agencies about roads and trails, especially closures, and about climbing routes and regulations, permits, and camping requirements.

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