Mountain Journeys

Navigation skills course

Over the bank holiday weekend i've been running a navigation skills course on behalf of Kendal Mountaineering Services.

Roger, Caroline, Chris, and Judy were all new to map reading and navigation skills, so we had a nice blank canvas to start from.
On Saturday we explored the area around Potter tarn, Staveley. This proved to be a perfect starting point and by staying fairly low down we kept out of the cold winds whilst enjoying sunshine. Areas covered today included:
Route planning
Introduction of the map
Identification of topographical features
Orientating the map using ground features and / or the compass
Grid references
Pacing and distances
Taking and walking on a bearing
Naismith rule (and a brief introduction to Tranter's variation on the rule)

Over the day the team became more confident to take bearings and read the map clearly, picking out ever smaller features to aid navigation.

Sunday was a very different day with strong winds and heavy rain that persisted all day! This sort of weather is of course perfect for tested navigational abilities, so we couldn't have wished for better conditions. Due to the strong winds we again stayed relatively low, using the Sleddale Forest area of Kentmere. This has a wild feel to it and with low cloud it certainly proved challenging for us to navigate around.
The day was spent consolidating yesterdays learning and areas we covered included:
Locating and following linear features (hand railing)
Navigating to precise locations (spot heights, stream junctions)
Contouring
Map interpretation
Aiming off and Attack points
Using tick off features

The final challenge was to navigate over a large section of featureless terrain using bearings and aiming off as our tools. During this exercise I had a few doubts at times as to whether they would hit the target. There was no need to doubt, the level of accuracy was quite astounding, a 700m navigation leg over difficult terrain in poor visibility and they got it spot on, phew! Oh, and very well done 🙂

We followed bridleways back down to Staveley to finish the course on less demanding terrain.

Thanks all and thanks to Iain for the work, much appreciated.

​Mark

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