6 March 2018

Naishmith's Rule - Five Different Mountain Travel Speeds

Naishmith's Rule: You are generally told that the average hill walker does a speed of 5km per hour on the average hillside. For flat or downhill just stick to that rule. For uphill add one extra minute for each uphill contour climbed.

However no one says you need to stick to that 5km per hour. For different mountain conditions, different weather conditions, different navigation tools (such as following a compass bearing), your walking speed will increase or decrease. Generally it will decrease!

The key is to know what different walking speeds feel like and to know what speed you get in various situations; for example coming downhill on a forest track you may get 6km per hour; night navigation over boulder fields, following a compass bearing, you may get 2km per hour.

Here are some examples.


2KM Per Hour
Example: Slow tricky ground, such as boulder fields, at night and following a compass bearing
2km = 60 mins
1km = 30 mins
500m = 15 mins
100m = 3 mins


3KM Per Hour
Example: Careful navigation, either by day or by night. You may often hit this speed when navigating in misty conditions by day
3km = 60 mins
1km = 20 mins

500m = 10 mins
100m = 2 mins


4KM Per Hour
Example: This can often be a more realistic mountain speed, allowing navigation to happen, and allowing for a pace that lessens sweating and dehydration
4km = 60 mins

1km = 15 mins
500m = 7.5 mins
100m = 1.5 mins


5KM Per Hour
Example: This is the 'official' Naishmith's Rule taught on Mountain Skills Courses. 4km per hour can often be more realistic for proper mountain terrain and mountain navigation
5km = 60 mins
1km = 12 mins
500m = 6 mins
100m = 1.2 mins


6KM Per Hour
Example: This is a decent 'fit and fast' speed, achieved on flat or downhill moor-type friendly ground, or coming down tracks
6km = 60 mins
1km = 10 mins
500m = 5 mins
100m = 1 min


These are just my own ideas and suggestions from being in the mountains. The main thing to take from this is - you do not need to stick to 5km per hour - come up with your own speeds for different situations - and get to know them.


A trick when starting your hill walking career is to have these written in permanent pen on the back of your map.

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