By: Blonde Two
We all know what contours are. We girls are especially good having them! Most of us also know what contour lines are.
If you look at your map before you go for a walk, you can easily see whether you are going to be;
a) Walking up a steep slope, i.e. crossing lots of bunched-up orange lines in the direction of a higher orange number than the one you started out at.
b) Walking (or in my case, sliding) down a steep slope, i.e. crossing lots of bunched-up orange lines in the direction of a lower orange number than the one you started at.
(Quick note here: Like childbirth, it is easy to forget how painful crossing tight uphill contours can be. I suggest that you make a mental note of the last time that you did it, how long it took you and whether or not you enjoyed it, before you do it again. The same rules could be applied to the causes of childbirth!)
c) Walking up a humanly-possible hill, i.e. crossing orange lines that are reasonably spaced out, moving from low to high orange numbers.
d) Walking down a humanly-possible hill, i.e. crossing orange lines that are reasonably spaced out, moving from high to low orange numbers. You might not even notice that you are doing this.
e) And I am loving this one more and more as I start (I said start) to age! Contouring; which is following an orange line as it moves around the map. In theory, if you do this, you shouldn’t go either uphill or downhill. On Dartmoor, if you do this, you will end up in a bog. It is just one of nature’s little jokes!
f) Welsh contouring. Welsh contouring, as Blonde One and I discovered last month, can be a bit misleading. When you have spent the day before doing lots of a) and then lots of b), it is tempting to go for a bit of e)!
But be warned. What looks like contouring to the uninitiated English Blonde, can in fact include an awful lot of hidden height loss and gain.
There are clues, of course, if you know what to look for. Crossing rivers that flow down a reasonable slope is always going to lead to contour-kinks (which in turn, lead to down, then up bits). You don’t have to have a river though for a dip/mound situation and there are some groovy geography-type words that go with these annoying little contour traps; spur, re-entrant, draw, valley, gully … there are more I am sure but they all mean the same thing. You are not going to be walking anywhere flat, anytime soon.
Now, I could tell you about convex and concave slopes at this point, but if I did, you might think that I was a contour-nerd! Maybe another day.