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Sometimes due to a high ridge or other land feature, the time that the sun comes over the horizon and gives direct sunlight is different from the time calculated by a sunrise table. From personal experience it can be up to several hours later.

Is there a way to at least estimate the time of direct sunlight?

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The solution is the same as for estimating the time until sunset. What you do is hold your arms straight out in front of you and then stack them up from level until you reach the horizon. Each hand is equal to approximately one hour.

This can be useful in situations where you have the option of camping on either the west or east sides of a high ridge. Camping on the east side will mean that the sun's warmth will reach you much earlier in the day, while the west side makes it easier to sleep in.

One place where this is very handy is the Uinta Highline Trail as you are repeatedly crossing high ridges that run north to south like this one and there is a large difference between sunrise and when the sun comes over the horizon,

Porcupine Pass Uintas

As you can see, while it is light out, its going to be a while before the sun comes over the ridge and really starts warming things up.

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  • I'd be interested to know how accurate this is – user2766 Sep 27 '17 at 8:27
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    @Liam I say to within 15 minutes or so. – Charlie Brumbaugh Sep 27 '17 at 13:01
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    Sorry, I seem to be missing a major point here. How is this method (to estimate the time until sunset) also applicable to sunrise? The approach seems to require the sun to be above the horizon, which, before sunrise, it is not. – Flint Sep 27 '17 at 17:52
  • @Flint You start from level and go up. Level is where the sun would appear if the ridge/mountain was not there. – Charlie Brumbaugh Sep 27 '17 at 23:13
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    And how do you find 'level' in the mountains? Well, I suppose you could peek over a brim full mug of your favourite beverage to have a field improvisation of a spirit level. But I would still need to know what time the sun rises at 'level', i.e. peruse a sunrise table or extrapolate from the sunrise the previous day. Getting up early to observe the change in daylight seems to defeat the purpose of the exercise. – Flint Sep 29 '17 at 20:51

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