WHY LEARN TO NAVIGATE?
Navigation is an essential skill for mountaineers. Indeed, one could argue that it is the foundation of all mountaineering.
An ability to navigate fosters independence, guarantees safety, and is a very enjoyable aspect of our sport. The first mountaineering club that I joined – the Feale Ramblers in Listowel – insisted that every new member learn how to navigate and organised a series of workshops to facilitate that. When I joined TMC –a long time ago– it was expected that every leader would have a proven ability to navigate, usually by way of completing Mountains Skills 1 and 2 and applying that training in practice in the mountains.
Apps like View Ranger have transformed navigation but the basic skill remains an ability to interpret a map and relate it to the terrain in which you are climbing. The most important components of this skill are
- being able to recognise features.
- being able to apply that recognition to map reading.
- being able to plot a safe and enjoyable route on the map with reference to features.
- a good map memory, knowing what to expect without having to look at the map.
- good situational awareness, being able to relate map memory to the terrain around you.
- navigating from the moment you set foot on a mountain, rather than when you get lost.
The paper map, laminated of course, remains the most important instrument of navigation. View Ranger is a valuable navigational tool but a mountaineer should always carry a map as back up. The Ordnance Survey Discovery Series is a remarkably accurate guide and good map reading skills will enable you to confirm your position on the mountain and navigate safely from feature to feature.
A compass is not much use without a map, unless you are on a mountain ridge like Brandon, which has a definite North – South orientation. Most of the time you will need both map and compass to navigate. There is only one compass if you are serious about navigation, the tried, tested, and trusted Silva Expedition.
1. Base plate. 2. Compass housing. 3. Compass needle. 4. Orienting lines. 5. Orienting arrow. 6. Index line. 7. Direction of travel arrow. 8. Compass scales. For more detail, go to to the UK Ordnance Survey site: Map reading skills: How o use a compass.
NAVIGATION MADE EASY
There is only one way to learn how to navigate and that is to navigate for real in the mountains. Before that you will need to learn the basics. The TMC navigation workshop scheduled for April 18 will introduce you to the basic elements of navigation but you will need to build on this by navigating in the mountains. There are a lot of resources online that will help you with this. The Mountaineering Ireland weblsite features a really useful set of training videos by Jane Carney. Have a look at the following videos:
USING A MAP
DISTANCE, TIMING, AND PACING.
Next blog in the series:
Other web resources include:
Hill Skill Series – Understanding grid references
How to Use Map Scales and Grids / OSI
How to Use a Map and Compass / OSI