New community forms to make mountain sports safer

Whether you’re hiking or skiing, climbing or cycling, you often love the mountains for their peace and tranquility.  You go there to get away from the hubbub of other people, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help others whilst you’re there.

For instance, I wrote a couple of years ago about a nice citizen science project, called Mountain Watch.  The aim of the project is to harness the passion of hikers to collect data about the flowers they encounter as they hike the trails.

The hope is that by recruiting hikers to the project, they will not only gain a better insight into the affect climate change has on the behavior of plants in the region, but also raise awareness of the various conservation issues they face in the wake of the changing climate.

Collective knowledge

Of course, you can also tap into the knowledge and experience of others to ensure your trip up the mountain is a safe and enjoyable one.  That’s the idea behind Mountain Hub, a free app designed to allow people to share information about the mountains to help others, especially in terms of avalanche risks.

The traditional method for assessing such risk involves digging a hole in the snow and analyzing the snow inside it for any weak layers.  Suffice to say, this can often take a bit of time and even then only provides one data point.

The team first developed a device that could do this better via a company, called Avatech, that was formed to bring it to market.  The device consisted of a 5-foot long probe with various pressure sensors that could gather a huge amount of data per second on the snow layer.

They quickly realized the importance of this data being sharable however, so set about building a means of connecting climbers so that they could share information not just on snowpack assessments, but also information on bike paths, hiking trails and all sorts of other things.

“Most mountain athletes do multiple activities all year round,” they say. “What a rock climber has to say about hazards on a trail is relevant to hikers and mountain bikers in the same area.”

The company thus pivoted towards this more social networking focus and developed out the app to feature things like trip reporting, terrain visualizations and a live map.  The ultimate goal is to reduce the danger associated with going alone into the mountains, and provide a place for people to share their stories and plan new adventures.

“We are spearheading a culture of contribution and sharing in the outdoors,” they say. “We want to build a real-time network that has daily engaging content so that the first thing someone does before they hit the trail is open up our app.”