ABBREVIATIONS FOR THE MAIN POINTS ON A COMPASS ROSE
S = South
SW = Southwest
W = West
NW = Northwest
N = North
NE = Northeast
E = East
SE = Southeast
The cardinal direction - i.e. the orientation - is displayed on a compass rose for mountaineering and winter routes as well as climbing areas. This information is of particular importance for any mountaineering activities such as via ferratas, and alpine routes and climbing, and also for winter activities such as ice climbing, ski touring, and snowshoeing. For example, if you are on a mountain route in early summer, it is possible that you will still encounter old snow on north-facing slopes, which can make a route much more challenging, especially if the slope is steep and the snow is hard.
For via ferratas and alpine climbing, shady north- and west-facing walls and ridges can be wonderful on hot summer days, but immediately become more serious when temperatures start to dip at high altitude and combine with shade and wind.
The same is true for climbing areas. As an example, a sport climber on Lake Garda will tend to avoid south-facing walls facing the sun all day in summer in order to escape the heat and will tend to retreat instead to shadier areas instead.
When ice climbing in the Alps, one should avoid direct sunlight, which occurs mainly in south- and east-facing terrain (depending on the time of day), since the air temperature can quickly reach plus degrees even in winter at higher altitudes. These strong temperature differences cause stresses on the ice and can lead to icefalls completely collapsing.
The orientation of slopes also plays a major role in winter along ski touring or snowshoe routes. On steep south-facing slopes, where the sun is highest at a 90° angle of incidence, there is increased snowpack moisture penetration, which increases the risk of wet snow avalanches. In contrast, north-facing slopes on the shaded side receive virtually no sun but tend to be more dangerous and treacherous for avalanches than south-facing slopes, as the usually cold temperatures in winter and the lack of sunlight mean that weak layers remain well preserved in the snowpack. General statements about which orientation is more dangerous should be avoided. It is better instead to read the avalanche report carefully before embarking on your trip so as to mitigate as much risk as possible. The respective report is stored directly on the Outdooractive map (depending on the region) so that you can decide on a suitable route depending on the current warning level and snow conditions. When on your trip you should be aiming to make well-considered decisions when looking at critical slopes and a defensive approach should be adopted.
In summary, the cardinal direction plays an important role in route planning for mountaineers and winter sports enthusiasts. You can decide on the right route or the safest area in advance by identifying the best compass rose direction for the conditions. If you want to publish a route on the platform yourself, you should only specify the most relevant and important direction on the compass rose. For example, in the case of alpine climbing, this would be the direction the wall climb section faces.