Navigation in the outdoors

It’s a while since I’ve added anything to this blog although I have been busy adding more walking routes to the website.

On Sunday I spent the day with a couple of members of Fife Food Drink and Adrenaline Lovers meetup group, showing them a few navigation techniques. My aim was to give them a bit of confidence and show them that they could indeed use a map and even a compass. The day was a great success and we covered topics such as :

Map symbols, contours, orientating the map, looking around you (very important that one), matching the land to the map, using a compass to find north, taking a bearing and walking on a bearing, measuring distance on a map and distance estimation using pacing and timing, use of grid references and a look at the various different kinds of maps that walkers tend to use. We did a comparison looking at OS Landranger, Explorer and Harvey Mountain Maps for the Glencoe area, especially the Buachaille Etive Mhor. We were working in the Glendevon area of the Ochils and the Harveys Superwalker map of the Ochils was highly praised as being very clear.

Basic navigation is so important to anyone who goes into the hills or even low level walking in remoter areas. Even people that spend their entire walking career walking in a group or with others should still take a bit of time to learn the essentials. All too often I find that when we go out, I’m the only person in the group who is carrying a map and compass. It makes me wonder what would happen, if I became injured and somebody else had to find their way off the hill to seek assistance. Hopefully now, a few others will start to take an interest and will gain a few basic skills.

And what a day out we had. 5 hours out on the hills, doing real practical things with the map and compass in amazing conditions. Although we were only about 450m high, we were treated to a temperature inversion and superb views of the surrounding hills in sunny wintry conditions. Afterwards, we retreated to a local hostelry to do a bit of theoretical stuff and review the day.

Overall, the day was considered to be a success, with my friends saying how much they had learned and feeling enthused about carrying maps with them when walking in the future! In fact, one commented to another, “that time when we were on Goatfell and couldn’t find the path back down, it would have been very easy to have used a compass bearing” or words to that affect anyway.

So if you are a walker and cannot use a map, how about giving it a try sometime. There are lots of resources on the internet to get you started or ask a friend if they would spend a couple of hours with you one day showing you the basics. Once you’ve grasped the basics, you can then start putting it into practise and building up your skills. It’s not rocket science and it might save your life one day!

Also, this week, I’m sorting out my winter kit. Although we were not that high at the weekend, it was very cold in the north wind and the higher hills around us were in full winter condition. So again if you are a walker reading this, are you properly kitted out for winter? Again, there are lots of resources on the internet to point you in the right direction.





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