A Rock Climber's Paradise: Calculating crags within three hours using Maps for Adobe

Rock climbing and mapping are two of my greatest passions, and it is a true joy when I get to fuse those two obsessions into a map focused on rock climbing. This 12 x 13.5 inch monochrome map shows rock climbing areas within a one-, two-, and three-hour drive of Canada’s beautiful west coast metropolis, Vancouver, British Columbia.  To differentiate between crags and climbing areas within and outside the three-hour zone, the crags outside the zone have been visually subdued1. The drive time polygons also all use the same hue, differentiating in opacity.

In this post, I’ll share the steps I followed to generate these drive time areas from Vancouver, B.C. all within Adobe Illustrator via Esri’s mapping tool created for Adobe Creative Cloud©. For information on some of the aesthetic design choices for this rock climbing map, check out this post on my personal site.

Esri’s ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud just released version 1.4, which includes a lot of new features including ArcGIS Online’s Drive Time Areas analysis tool, allowing users to calculate travel times and distances from a particular point or set of points. There are many possible applications for this useful feature. For example, users can create polygons indicating how far an emergency vehicle can travel in 10 minutes from its dispatch location. Now that this travel time analysis tool has been added to Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud (M4CC), users can add these polygons to their map inside Adobe Illustrator. In fact, there are many different types of travel analyses mappers can do, including pedestrian, trucking, rural driving, and more. You can find out more about Esri’s travel analysis tool here.

Full map, small, Climbing areas within three hours of Vancouver, B.C.

1. Draw the mapboard

For my rock climbing map, I wanted the largest drive time polygon (three hours from Vancouver) to help form my map extent, which users set up in M4CC by drawing the mapboard. Drawing a mapboard that is supposed to encompass a three-hour drive time from a particular spot takes some familiarity with the region. You cannot know exactly how far you can travel for three hours in any direction without first running the Drive Time tool. And you cannot run the Drive Time tool without first drawing the mapboard. Luckily, you can adjust the mapboard exactly where you want anytime in the map-making process before you sync/download the map. So, if the map’s extent needs to be adjusted after running the Drive Time tool, that’s easy to do. Remember once you sync/download2 your map, the map extent cannot be changed. You can read more about the M4CC Mapboard tool here.

2. Add the data from which the travel times will be generated

You need some starting-point data (yes, it needs to be point data) to run the Drive Time tool. I used the great Add Places feature in M4CC Compilation window to get the Vancouver point to run the travel time tool. To do this, once I finished drawing my mapboard in step 1 I went to the Compilation window, and then:

Click 'Add Content' and select 'Add Places'
Type "Vancouver" in search bar
Click the plus button next to the spot you want to add to your map

This added a point in the center of Vancouver, British Columbia to my map. This will be the point that I use to calculate my travel time polygons.

3. Create Travel Time areas

The final step to add these travel time polygons (or travel distance polygons, if that is what your map calls for) to your map is to use the “Visualize Travel Time” tool (comes from ArcGIS Online’s Drive Time Areas analysis tool), newly available in M4CC.

Select "Visualize Travel Times" from the layer's flyout menu
Select "Driving Time" from the Travel Times options
5 minute drive time area example

Because my map called for 3 polygons: 1-hour, 2-hour, and 3-hour drive times, I entered these values with a space between each, and then selected “Hours” as shown in the image below. After entering your desired travel polygon parameters, click “Apply” and in a few moments, you’ll have your travel time polygons added to your map in the Compilation window.

Calculating multiple drive times simultaneously
Sample showing travel times from Vancouver

Of course, now you get to add all the other contextual data to illuminate your map’s story. For my rock climbing map, I added points representing climbing areas, informed by Mountain Project, BC provincial parks, US and Canada national parks, a world hillshade layer, and transportation layers. A lot of the data I used came from the VectorStreetMap layer available to all M4CC users. I also applied the gorgeous BC Environment Albers projection by using M4CC’s projection settings.

I had so much fun making this intentionally monochrome map. If you’d like to read about some of the design process behind this map, you can check out this latest post on my personal site, where I write about mapping.

1 Note that while many of the climbing areas are within three hours of Vancouver, not all the crags and peaks within that area are necessarily within three hours. Nevertheless, their crags are listed in the bold (see North Cascades, for example).
2 Downloading a map in M4CC is also referred to as “syncing” since information from the map you are building is embedded into the Illustrator file itself. this allows users to re-load their map in the extension just by opening the synced Illustrator file. For more details on syncing a map, check out this documentation.

Vancouver rock climbing map legend

About the author

Datavisualization, Mapping, Climbing and life in the Pacific Northwest. I've written a book full of ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Illustrator tutorials called Mapping by Design: A Guide to ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud. I post some of my work on my site, and at


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