How do I find out my total ascent?

You can be old school (using a map and counting contours), new school (plotting your route on mapping software or online) or properly down with the kids (using an app). You can do it before, during or after your walk. Here are a few options:

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GPS unit or watch

The easiest solution is to use a GPS unit or a watch, which has either GPS functionality that records your route as you walk or an altimeter that records your ascent. Generally, these are more frugal power-wise than phone apps and don’t compromise your communication device. Some will record your ascent on the go so you can track your progress as you walk. All should allow you to download your route later into mapping software.

An app or tracker

If you use a smartphone app to assist your navigation when you’re out on the hill, chances are you have the ability to track your total ascent already. Just check you’re not going to be charged for data, and that tracking your ascent doesn’t sap your battery life (many apps work in the background to save juice). Using an app is ideal to track any short walks you do at lunchtime or around your home – places where you might not necessarily use a map.

Online mapping or software

Mapping software allows you to plot the route you are about to do – or have just done – onto an OS map that
will immediately give you a figure for your total ascent. You can also use mapping software or online mapping
to import GPX files from any watches, smartphones or GPS units you have used to track your walk.

A paper map

If technology isn’t your thing, don’t worry! It’s easy to work out your ascent using a map. Following your route, simply count the number of uphill contour lines you cross, and add them up. You should ignore downhill contours. Any hillwalking routes with a lot of up and down will often have a high ascent figure! Each contour on an OS map equates to 10m of slope, so for instance, if you cross 120 uphill contours: 120 x 10m = 1200m of ascent. If you prefer Harvey maps, be aware their contours are at 15m intervals. So 120 x 15m = 1800m of ascent. In other words, you do the math!

...and there’s more!

Trail subscribers have FREE access to both the OS Maps smartphone app and the OS Maps online portal, with UK-wide 1:25k mapping – two excellent tools that allow you to plan routes, import and export route traces (GPX files) and record your route on the go. There is also a huge selection of walks – including Trail Routes – already loaded on for plenty of inspiration, and total ascent figures are included for each route! Visit to find out how to unlock your free 12 months of access – or trail to subscribe and cash in!