For some reason I’ve always felt called to mountaineering guidebook publishing. Doing so is rarely lucrative, so I think my passion comes from a deep seated yearning to share the bounty, along with a never materializing dream of making a living writing the things.
A guidebook I always had high hopes for was one I did years ago for the 10th Mountain Division Hut System here in Colorado. The book was re-editioned several times by the publisher, but it had ugly photos and nearly nothing as maps, so as a guidebook it understandably languished. The book went out of print a while ago. My interest in guidebooks waned, and with family matters, WildSnow.com and ski mountaineering taking most of my energy, I wasn’t that interested in writing about the 10th Huts.
But that deep yearning for guidebook publishing never quite went away, so a while back I bought the hutski.com domain name and began considering doing a guidebook on the web. Over the years I’d continued ski touring and hiking to the 10th Huts, so I figured why not cover the 10th Huts again? I’ll just get out and do some field checks, whip up a set of maps, re-write my route descriptions and publish online. It was of course a bit more of an epic than that. In fact, it was a three month epic this late summer and fall. But thanks to the help of various folks I got hutski.com “officially” published a few weeks ago. Read more below image…
The big issue with publishing a backcountry guidebook on the web is how to make it portable so people can use it in the field. To that end, I worked my tail off figuring out how to do a map tileset that’s easily printed on a home printer, but can also be viewed on a website. What I ended up doing was making 29 maps, each of which will easily print on 8 1/2 x 11 standard printer paper. The solution for web display as well as printing was to use Flash, in the form of something they call “Flashpaper” that’s designed for document display and printing. For water resistance, we’re figuring people can do everything from using National Geographic waterproof printing paper, to having the map laminated, or just sticking it in a ziplock bag. Ultimately, our goal is “paperless mapping” done by loading the map into a PDA of some sort.
Along with the maps, we also designed the site so the route descriptions will print on any printer. (We could have made a “print this page” option, but doing so ads complexity a simple website doesn’t need).
Another thing I’m working on is publishing GPS tracks for the guidebook routes. It’s difficult to do this in a useful way, but we’re getting there. As an experiment we’ve already published some waypoint sets. For example, check out our info for the new Continental Divide Cabin.
I’m still figuring out how to fit everything together in a way that’s best for users of the site, and also finishing up the editing for design consistency and typos, but the site definitely works and includes everything you need to navigate more than 20 Colorado huts. Check it out and let us know what you think.